A writer can easily become a recluse. Lost in a world of fiction, their characters often become their closest form of contact. I know this. I’m a writer. Many of my ‘real’ friends understand my apparent vagueness when I finally allow myself out to mingle. I’m often caught between two worlds; one foot in reality, one in fiction. So, when I joined a school reunion group on Facebook and started seeing fellow students from my all-girl high school from way back when, I amused myself with scrolling through old photos and reading funny anecdotes of childish pranks and teenage crushes. Then I posted a class photo and a woman responded. She said that she still felt sad about seeing a couple of faces in school photos after all this time. This shook me out of my ‘protected’ space, huddled in front of my computer, loving and protecting my protagonists, hating and exposing my antagonists. I slept on this former classmates comment and the next day, I responded. Here it is:
I do understand your comment. I may even be one of those faces you feel sad about seeing. You see, at the tender age of 12, I arrived at an Australian high school from the UK and what a culture shock it was! It was a case of sink or swim. I chose to swim. Swim in an ocean of both sharks and dolphins; predators and survivors, trouble makers and peace makers, often swapping identities in order to keep swimming. We were all but babes and what did we know then? Very little, and certainly very little in regards to kindness and humanity.
But now look at us. We have weathered many storms, and hopefully we have basked in many more days of sunlight. We have had lover and abusers. We have forged careers and discovered talents we and others never thought possible. (Yes, my old English teacher, I did live long enough to prove you wrong!) We have married in naivety, and either grown together with our partners or divorced in devastation (or relief!) and remarried or found new love in amazement and gratitude. We have faced the fear of childbirth, praying that we will be good mothers. And we have embraced the arrival of our grandchildren, knowing, with unwavering certainty, that we will be terrific grandparents. We have witnessed the sickness and death of our loved ones. We have lost friends and found new ones.
But we have survived, and we are not the same people as those young girls we see staring back with false bravado in our school photos. We are women now; women of compassion and empathy, women of strength and durability. And all because we endured those years of teenage rivalry, pettiness and bullying, friendship and hatred, but also years that shaped us and gave us the tenacity to survive. And now we are reconnecting, thanks to this site. Our lives are diverse and varied but we have a commonality, for better or worse, good memories or bad, for we made it through the minefield called high school. Here’s to us!
And here’s to all my readers. The reason I write; to celebrate women who, like all of us, in the end, rise above adversity and live fulfilling lives. Happy living.