I graduated from high school in 1999. I’m turning 40 this summer. And even though I’ve been removed from the halls of Lincoln High School for 22 years, I don’t forget what high school felt like — and how I reacted and responded to those feelings.
For some, high school is the best time of their lives. For others, it’s the worst. And for me, it was a bit of both. I wasn’t exactly a mean girl (though some may disagree), but I wasn’t a particularly nice girl either. I was definitely full of self-doubt and insecurity but never had access to the vocabulary or understanding I needed to express that during my teenage years. I was always comparing myself to others, wishing to keep up, and feeling like I fell short most of the time.
When Facebook first became a thing (after Myspace, of course), it was a great way to catch up with people and on people. It was a voyeuristic dream. It was like taking out a new technological ruler and finding another way to measure myself against the people I knew from my teenage years. Who was in a serious relationship? Who was married? Who had kids? Yikes! So young! Jobs? Careers? Divorces? Oh my! The new knowledge was endless and almost addictive. And I still felt like I was falling short.
I don’t exactly remember when it changed, but eventually I put the ruler away. Maybe it was after attending my 20th high school reunion. I spent most of that evening chatting with women I had not been friends with in high school. We hadn’t been enemies, we just weren’t friends. And I enjoyed myself. And I wondered why I hadn’t been friends with some of these women when I was in high school.
And now, when I look at Facebook and I see updates from these girls I knew in high school, I truly enjoy viewing their victories. I want to see pictures from their weddings. I love pictures of their kids (and their pets, too!). When they share a workout that they crushed, I get excited for them. When their home makeover is finished, I can’t wait to see before and after pictures. When they post selfies, I love their confidence. When they share their struggles, I feel for them. When they are angry about an injustice, I feel anger too. Some are married. Some are single. Some are moms. Some are not. Some are happy. Some are sad. Some are strong. Some are weak.
I relate to them all, in some way. I have empathy. I value their choices to share who they are with their friends, so freely and unabashedly.
I spent a lot of those four years in high school pining over unrequited love, navigating the boundaries and intricacies of female friendships, and feeling generally uncomfortable in my skin most of the time. And now, as I stand on the precipice of my fourth decade on this planet, I realize that the girl I was in high school and the woman I am today are two completely different beings — but one could not exist without the other.
I look back at the girl I was, and I don’t miss her. I don’t feel bad for her, but I wish she could have had some of the knowledge and self-love I have today. I wish that for her because I know that is what allows me to show others love and compassion. That is why I so truly enjoy seeing the updates from women I was never close to in my teenage years.
So, to all the girls I knew in high school who are now my friends on Facebook, keep sharing. Show me what you’ve got, what you’ve lost, what you’ve gained, and who you are. I am so sorry I didn’t get to know you in high school. I am so grateful I get to know you now. And I am here, on the other side of the screen, cheering for you every step of the way.