It’s the same old story. You’re a little late, the buzz of hundreds of conversations reaching you as you walk down the hall, before you even get in there. You walk in to the cafeteria…of course you forgot your glasses again so you can’t see where everyone is. You lean casually against the wall, hoping that no one will notice you before you get your bearings. Scanning the crowd for a familiar face, you finally see your friend at a table across the room and breathe a sigh of relief. You feel so much less conspicuous as you slide in next to her at the table.
Sound familiar? If you think I’m talking about high school you’re wrong. I’m actually talking about going to some parent event at the elementary school. One thing I’ve learned this far in life–high school never really goes away.
I don’t know about you, but I walk into every school function with a major chip on my shoulder. I peg people for who they probably were in high school…it’s actually pretty easy to figure out. Who the cool people were, the nerds, the quiet ones, the stoners, the smart kids, the nice ones who everyone liked…I don’t think our roles change that much as parents. I think we slide right into the same roles we filled when we were kids. The cliques we fell into are still alive and wel. It’s hard to reinvent yourself. My college roommate was hell bent on being a totally different person in college and failed miserably. I have grown and changed for sure of course-thank God. But in so many ways I’m still that same person…perched on the edge of not-quite-popular and still looking for my big break. I don’t care as much about how I look…I have no problem showing up to things in my big fleecy pants and Wyoming Soccer sweatshirt. Still, it disgusts me though how much I still care about being one of the “cool kids.” I hate how I sort everyone out into their assigned roles, myself included.
I’m not sure how to just quit doing it though. I try to just go about my business and I enjoy my life and my family and kids tremendously. Put me in a room full of other moms though…I’m nice on the outside but you do not want to hear my inner dialogue. Critical, judgmental, sarcastic, snarky, you name it. It ain’t pretty.
I don’t know what you imagine adulthood is going to be like when you’re a kid. You just see the grownups going about their business, orbiting around the universe that is You. You don’t really care who their friends are or what they think about the other grown ups, I don’t think that even occurs to you, that your parents might have the same peer power struggles that you do.
People might think I’m crazy or that I’m insecure or making it up, but I don’t think it’s all in my head. There’s plenty of one-uppmanship to go around, comparing your kid to others, backhanded compliments about someone else’s kid, gossip, rumor spreading…I mean, if you haven’t experienced this to some degree I don’t know where you’ve been hiding (or you’re one of those super nice people, that rare person that’s friends with everyone and always mangages to rise above the fray.). Really this is all just a slightly elevated level of high school drama. We just all have better jobs and drive bigger cars. We’re still trying to impress, trying to be important. Trying to find some way, one way, ANY way to be just a little bit better than someone else. It’s how we fill that blank, bleak hole sitting in the very pit of ourselves, how we shut up that voice that tells us we’ll never be good enough. And I think really, we all feel like we’ll never be good enough, even the most cool and popular among us. Some people are just better at pretending otherwise.
The thing is…I don’t think that voice is as loud as it used to be, that hole seems not so hollow. So maybe I am growing up some. Maybe it’s just I’m in the middle on some continuum of “Importance of What Other People Think” which means there has to be an end somewhere, right? Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to just let go completely and just be.
I really, really love the song “Secrets” by Mary Lambert. It’s so freeing and such a powerful message…”I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are…” And I don’t care so much, really. But I do still want people to like me. I wonder if that feeling ever totally goes away.