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A Look Back
It was March, just weeks before Spring Break that we started handing them out. There was a spell of unseasonably warm weather and the air was muggy; my hair fell heavy down my back. We went to all the senior homerooms handing out sheets for senior announcements. Most of our peers didn’t pay attention as we explained their purpose. They were too busy waiting for the bell to ring so they could run around town, driving with their windows down, and chase away the remnants of our cold winter. No one listened as we explained that these announcements would appear in the booklet given out at graduation, the lines we would read to remember each other when we left.
I folded mine carefully into halves four times and tucked it in the back pocket of my cut-offs. It wasn’t until later than night that I remembered it, pulling it back out. With it came a shower of sand from the beach I’d sat around on that afternoon, a rare opportunity to gossip with my girlfriends that spring. It was easy to fill out. It was a simple half sheet asking you to mark down the school activities you’d participated in, your GPA, and class rank. Even the free response had guidelines, a sentence saying your parents’ names, a quick note about your hobbies, and a single sentence stating your future plans. My entire highschool career summed up in three sentences.
I know at this moment I should be excited, as this is yet another reminder I will soon be leaving and starting my “real life”. I t seems wrong, though, to be remembered this way, for my scholastic achievements, the clubs I was in, a single sentence representing my hopes and dreams for the future.
It seems wrong that in the end the statement I give about myself doesn’t explain who I am. Of course I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve made. I managed to keep my GPA high, stay in the top ten percent of my class, my list of extracurriculars is impressive. None of these things are me, though. They don’t show the girl that I am. They couldn’t possibly convey the things about me that you have to know in order to know me.
No one will know that my hair turns red in the summer time, that my favorite color is green. They won’t know that I love to play catch, that I know how to be quiet and still when the world is spinning out of control. They won’t know about the dark times when I went to 7 funerals in just three years; that I was bitter and angry. I listened to music as hateful and loud as I wanted to be. They won’t ever know that I hate mushrooms, or that my favorite food are the white raspberries my uncle grows in his garden. They won’t know the name of the first boy that broke my heart, or that I cried for two days after. They won’t see the blissed-out look in my eyes when I am truly content. No one will know that I love my only sister more than anyone else in this world. How could they know that I squeal when I laugh? That I’m terrified of elevators and car washes. They won’t know the way I worry myself sick, or my tendency to fall asleep in a Culver’s booth or just before curfew.
And if they don’t know this how will they ever know me? They will never know the girl who lives in my heart of hearts. The girl who will reside there until I am an old woman. She will always be a part of me. And for them to not know this is tragic, that they will see my accomplishments and think that they do know me is perhaps even more so.
I think of all the days we’ve spent together, my classmates and I, the agonizing heat of our Midwest summers seeping in the open windows. I see the faces of my classmates, remember the ties I’ve had with them, built and broken. The friends I have now aren’t the ones I’ve always had, and I’m a little sad about this. They would know these things about me, most of them anyway. Those friends, long ago replaced were the ones who built me. They saw me through my rare moments of anger, saw me up close. They know how hard it is for me to make friends, and I tended to befriend those very unlike myself. I liked their loudness, their absolute ease at expressing their emotions.
I’m sad too, to know that I no longer know them. I see it in their unfamiliar eyes, and masked faces that I can’t read anymore. I’ve lost them to their short skirts, they boys they spend their nights with. We can never know each other again, too much has fallen between us that the other can’t understand. Even with all this, though, we do know each other. We know the way I smile when I’m sad. They know the books I read, and how I crinkle my nose when I read. I could navigate their kitchen even now, and tell you the lullabies their mother used to sing to them. I could tell you exactly why she watched “The Wedding Planner” every day of 8th grade, even if she herself doesn’t know.
I can tell you, too, that those lost friends are a part of me that is always missing. A place still exists for them inside me, grown over with new bonds, new stories, and sadness. There is a part of me that they would always understand because they knew me, so long ago when I wasn’t even me yet.
Looking down at that little half sheet, I know I have more to say about highschool, more to say about the last four years of my life. Freshman year I was lonely and sad. My hair was cut short, I’d shed it along with my best friend of five years. I thought the world of a boy in my art class; he was in a band, smoked pot (which I knew nothing about), and always listened when I talked. I wrote down everything I ate in a notebook I tucked away under my mattress. By the time I was a sophomore I’d found a new group of friends. They were loud, wild, and completely different from me.
I was the baby of the group, in both age and experience. I followed them wide-eyed and soft-spoken through a world I’d never seen. Sometimes they drank and smoked; those nights I didn’t know why I was their friend. We were so different. I hung around my first boy that year. He was dating someone else and I told myself it didn’t matter because we were just friends. It wasn’t true, though, and I soon realized I loved him. Even though I was just 15, a baby, I did love him. I knew he would always be in my heart.
I went to Italy that summer and came home ten pounds lighter. I still loved that boy, but I was ready to let him go. He hung onto me, though, and quickly became my best friend. He knew the biggest secret of all; when school started that year, my junior year, I didn’t eat. I grew to love my jutting hip bones, my rips that traced my chest, the impossible roundness of my collarbones. He kept my secret and said he loved me. But, there was always a reason that we weren’t together. For us there was always a slight strain. He broke my heart and I cried for two days, but I never stopped loving him.
The next summer my friends stopped talking to me, and suddenly I was alone. That June I dropped below 100 pounds, below danger weight. I could see all the bones in my sternum hugging me tight and holding me together. I fell in love with a boy that gave me his whole heart. Slowly I slipped away from my family and folded myself into his. Most people would say he had a broken home but I delighted in his family. They looked over my imperfections and gave me the unconditional love I so desperately needed. They gave me hugs, called me sweetie and honey. They kissed me on the forehead and tried to make up for all the years I went without physical contact.
Things have changed since that first year, and I’m not sure any longer who know me best. I’m not sure how I want to be remembered. I’m not even sure who holds my heart. So many people have found their place there that sometimes I wonder if it’s even really mine.
So what I write on my senior announcement is this; I’m the girl who has a great big laugh and burning eyes. I love dusk and watermelon juice dripping down my bare summer-skin. I love kissing and the world of words that’s big enough to lose myself in. In winter I love the warm scratchiness of old blankets and wind-chimes in the night. I have loved and will love again. I have given my heart away and walked into the night guided by the light of a firefly.
My future is a million hopes and dreams. It lies in the arms of the man I love, somewhere in a brick house nestled in the forest. It lies beyond the lakes of the Midwest and the flashing lights of a city. My future is all the things I’ve always wanted, but it is more than a sentences. My future is the unknown.