Even though I've lived in Chicago for a long time now, I think I'll always be a small town girl at heart. It's been fourteen years since I graduated from high school, which means it'll be only six more years until my twenty-year class reunion. (That makes me feel old. But then again, watching a One Direction music video makes me feel old too.)
I don't really keep in touch with anyone from high school anymore. I suppose I could reconnect with old classmates and friends if I joined Facebook, but seeing as how I have an obsessive personality, Facebook would probably prevent me from ever leaving my apartment again. If and when there is a reunion, I'm not sure I'll go. The thing about growing up in a small town is that everyone knows everything about each other, and I'd really rather not spend an evening listening to people reminisce about the top ten times I embarrassed myself.
Also, I feel ashamed that it's taken me so long to complete my PhD, and I'm still not there yet. I always thought that I'd have my act together by the time I was in my thirties, but I'm still figuring everything out.
There are some things I miss about living in a small town and being a teenager, though.
I miss going to the movies with my friends on Saturday nights.
I don't miss the parties that only the football players and cheerleaders were invited to, which meant that less than half a dozen people in the class (including me) didn't get to go. (I was a cheerleader in junior high but not in high school, partly because I once accidentally caused a pyramid of cheerleaders to collapse.)
I miss the peace and quiet, especially now that a new neighbor has moved into my building and is an aspiring musician. I say "aspiring musician" because he apparently only knows three chords on the piano, which he keeps playing over and over again for hours every night while he sings (off-key) at the top of his lungs. I'm half-tempted to steal his keyboard, take a picture of it, and then slip a note under his door that says, "If you want to see your keyboard again, buy a pair of headphones. Otherwise, your keyboard will be sleeping with the fishes."
I don't miss the gossip that people would spread about each other, because it was nearly impossible to keep secrets in a small town.
I miss the familiarity, where I could take a walk around the neighborhood, go to the store, or visit the public library and inevitably run into several people that I knew.
I don't miss the cliques that formed in the first grade and more or less stayed intact through senior year of high school.
I miss eating pizza and hamburgers with my friends after we went to the movies.
I don't miss the Salisbury steak and corn dogs we ate for lunch in the high school cafeteria.
I miss being able to spend money on fun things like CDs and concert tickets instead of sensible things like rent and groceries.
I don't miss working in a supermarket, where I routinely had to tell customers to put their shirts back on if they wanted to continue shopping in the store.
I miss the sense of optimism and hope I had for the future, back when I believed anything was possible.
I don't miss the people who made me feel bad because I didn't have a boyfriend, because I read and studied most of the time, and because I kept getting hit by the ball every time I tried to play sports. One thing that I like about being an "adult" is that I can be "different" and not have to worry about the most popular kids in school judging me.
If I could talk to my teenaged self, I'd tell her that it's not the end of the world if you don't have a boyfriend, even if it seems like all your other friends have boyfriends and like to spend hours telling you about them. I'd tell her that it's okay if you don't go to prom, because there are so many other things in your life that you'll have to look forward to. I'd tell her that high school doesn't last forever, and eventually you will be free of it.
What about you? What do you miss/not miss about high school and your hometown? If you already had a reunion, did you go? If you haven't had one yet, will you go if there is one?
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