Thursday, October 21, 2010

Robinson Rams

Recently Z asked me if I wanted to go back in time and relive high school again.  I felt like the question came out of left field.  Who in their right minds would ever want to be a teenager again?  You know the amazing “It Gets Better” campaign reaching out to suicidal gay teens?  I think all teenagers, regardless of their sexual orientation should be listening.  My high school experience was pretty happy all things considered, but I still would have taken a lot of comfort in hearing it does get better.  I told him no way in hell.  He then asked me if I’d do anything differently knowing what I know now.  Part of me would want to make changes.  I would try and be kinder and clearer with my intentions, and I would take back a few huge mistakes that fill me with shame.  But when I think more about it I know I wouldn’t change a single thing.  My choices led me to Z and if I could make changes I might not have ended up at Swing 46 with my sister and my high school friend Kevin the night of June 14, 1998 when Kev’s roommate Z unexpectedly showed up and asked me to dance. 

Z asked me the question because I have been talking about high school a lot lately.  It’s facebook’s fault.  Before I reconnected with a lot of Robinson Rams on FB it didn’t feel like I had a big gaping hole in my life.  I’m not the high school reunion type.  A few years ago the only people I had relationships with from high school were my sister, my best friend, and Kev and that was just fine with me.  Then about two years ago Kevin posted some pictures from school and a frenzy of friending among those of us who were disciples of Mr. Rome the drama teacher began.  And over the last two years I have discovered I want to know these people.  Some of the people I knew casually have grown into people I sincerely like so much as adults.  Some of the kids I looked up to so much back then still create that response in me today.   The bottom line is a lot of these people enrich my life so much now, and I think it is damn cool. 

I moved around a lot before high school.  From kindergarten to 8th grade I attended 8 schools.  I went to 4th grade across the street from my high school and there I met one of my favorite people in the world.  Four years  and 3 moves later when we re-met in 8th grade he didn’t remember me at all, but as the perpetual new girl I was thrilled to realize I had a history with someone, even if  I was the only one who remembered it.  We forged a friendship and now all these years later we correspond regularly.  He is friends with my husband on FB, and I am friends with his wife although we he haven't met each other's spouses or seen each other in 15 years.  Out of the blue last spring he gave me one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received in my life.  I feel like the world is a better place because he is in it, and I feel privileged to call him a friend.   

There’s another gal who I didn’t know well at all in school, but now all these years later we have so much in common it is just strange, right down to the dishes we have in our kitchens.  If we lived closer I could see our families spending a lot of time getting into trouble together.   I feel the same way about another gal, though the specifics are different.  Kev got to meet her for coffee when he was back in NOVA recently and I was positively green with envy when I heard about it.

There’s the woman who is friends with my cousin and his wife because this is such a crazy small world.  I was lucky enough to see her January, and I would love to see her again.  A woman who scared the bejesus out of me with her confidence and popularity back when we were girls has become a friend much to my surprise and now delight.  A boy I was sure I was in love with when I was 14 wanted my feedback when he started a blog.  A teddy bear of a guy I once knew has only gotten more adorable.  I now desperately want to go to DC and get a drink with him so he can crack me up with his acerbic wit.  My high school sweetheart, oh I am so grateful I get a peek into his life.  The beauty who lives in Austin, the sassy gal who lives in MD, the heartthrob who lives in NYC, the friend who's whole family is dressing as Harry Potter characters for Halloween, the gal who is advocating for the arts in SC, the masseuse in Chicago I still wish I knew better, I’m forgetting tons of people I care about but the message is the same.  I’m grateful each and every one of them is back in my life. 

Last weekend I read a status update from someone I liked so much in high school that the word “like” doesn’t seem to cover it.  I looked up to her, wanted to be like her, wanted to be worthy of her liking me.  She was and is a talented artist, which was enough to fascinate me, but even more importantly she was kind.  Kind.  Now that is a rarity in adults, let alone teenagers.  So I emailed her and told her exactly what I thought of her.  It felt really good to be honest and to say something nice that I meant from the bottom of my heart.  We have been corresponding back and forth and it makes me so happy to learn more about her.  Last night I was discussing this on the phone with Kev.  And I just felt lucky.  Lucky to get to know these people who used to be such a huge part of my life.  Lucky that I will see my best friend in a few weeks and I know we will make each other laugh as hard as hard as we did in 1991.  And most of all lucky to have Kevin, a friend who I am fiercely protective about, who I love as much as family, who I feel so proud of because I knew him when he was 16 and he has become a man that anyone would be lucky to have in their lives.   

So thank you Robinson Drama Department, for bringing all these awesome people into my life.  And as corny as it is, I encourage all of you to send a crazy “I like you” email to someone from your past.  It is really worth it. 

Thanks Uncle A and Aunt B (perhaps my favorite Robinson Ram ever) for the awesome hat!


  1. Thank you, Karen, for making me remember the best things about high school with this post - folks like you. I've been loving your posts here, too, and hope those funny and optimistic conclusions to them are having that effect right back on you. I may have never uttered this before in my life: Go Rams.

  2. Karen, thank you for posting this. You know I feel likewise about your impact on world-betterness.

    @Jeff: Seconded.

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  4. smooches! I feel the same way- I was ok that I disappeared- that I kept in touch with just a few people. Then stupid fb happened and I find myself thinking of and missing someone every day. I had a dream the other night that had everyone in it. It made me happy and sad. (oh-and to further the similarities, I was madly in love with the same boy when I was 14)

    Last winter when I went to drinks with a few folks, we commented that it felt really good to see each other as adults because we could enjoy each other for who we are and joke about the who we were without all those hormones and insecurities and stuff...

    Warm fuzzies!

  5. It's weird... the "community" that exists now that we didn't know existed then. It's funny when I speak of recent FB friends that were long ago acquaintances I don't know what to call them. I was talking to MQD about you, Karen, the other night. And he said "Karen? High school friend, Karen?" And I said.. umm... high school acquaintance and now friend." It made me happy.

    @Jeff, I am giggling at the idea of you saying Go Rams.

    @sophia's lament - Wasn't everyone in love with that boy? :)

    I think being from that area is a weird thing. Even when I meet someone now that says they grew up in Northern Virginia I feel at ease. They understand something about us that we can't really explain.

    Good post, Karen. Yup. Go Rams. Heh.

  6. Thanks guys, I'm having serious warm fuzzies about all of you.

    Another thing I wonder is how many high schoolers later look back the way we do and realize they shared a hard and often weird experience with truly wonderful people. Do most other Robinson grads feel the way we do? Do most other drama kids no matter what the high school? When I wrote this I wish I'd thought to pose these questions to non Rams. Most people read new posts in the first day, but if there are readers out there who didn't go to Robinson will you tell us if you have a newfound attachment to the folks you went to high school with? If so, what was your high school experience like?

  7. Karen, I totally get what you're saying about feeling a new and different attachment to your hs friends. I recently got together with some old hs friends, people I really loved when I was 16, and there just wasn't much there. But others, people I maybe didn't know as well or whatever, have become special to me in a whole new way. This was a really sweet post, and I would do as you suggest, but fortunately I've already been doing it. Life is too short not to tell people how much they mean to you.