To the Class of 1983 from The Breakfast Club
It's been a long and painful journey for me to believe these tenets enough to voice them and share in hopes that others can live a little better.
I was surprised to be contacted by PCHS Class of 1983, and I can't say the contact was welcome. I didn't even graduate. On a counselor's advice I dropped out with the intention of earning a GED and proceeding to college, where my learning style would be better served. For reasons that are none of your business, that isn't what happened.
When I read the email sent by the Reunion Planning Committee, I responded with anger. I was bullied from middle school until the time I chose to stop showing up at PCHS in 1983, right before the finish line. I felt my former classmates were setting me up with this invitation, like Carrie at the prom. Surely they didn't mean to invite me.
I didn't identify my feelings as pain back then - I didn't feel. I just tried to survive, tried to identify what was coming at me next so I could avert. School was easy: I just had to stop going into the building. I loved learning, still do. In 1983 I needed humans - people who understood and encouraged me. I found none among my classmates. Maybe you were busy.
I'm not the only one; you may or may not remember the names and faces of people who aren't seated among you at the reunion, whatever their reasons.
The Planning Committee wrote me back a heartfelt reply:
She's right, at base. But sad? Yeah, no. We aren't talking insecurities here - we're talking target practice. I am not the only one that suffered cruelty from those who weren't sure whether they were peers.It is sad that people can be so cruel in those formative years and in reality everyone of us had insecurities galore...even the “popular” ones.
We were bullied for being virgin, for not being virgin, for owning only one real pair of Levis and wearing them on consecutive days. We were bullied for getting crap grades, for good grades, for stuttering, for being outspoken. For having wrinkly clothes, for sleeping in class.
Some of us were abused by parents or siblings. Some of us were rejected by our families, literally unable to go home after school, and still showed up in class the next day with homework done by streetlight whilst living in a car. For some of us, the free lunch was our only guaranteed meal. Every one of these examples is a true story for me or someone I know.
You were there, too.
Insecurity is the terrifying norm during the transition from child to adult. Lacking basic safety and security is something you can't just assume you understand. You may have been one of the insecure ones; you may have felt too inconfident to say something when one of your friends was a bully. I can't weigh your struggles for you.
You can't weigh another person's struggle, but there is no good reason to add to it.
Reunions are supposed to be times of reminiscence, I think, maybe to compare where we've landed to where we began. Every one of our class of 1983 has had a struggle since leaving high school.
Some of us have had children, or lost children. Some lost limbs, or their lives, or came close. Some of us gained careers in the fields we intended in high school; some have had several career changes. Some of our class are probably jobless right at this moment.
Think about where you were, who you were, in 1983, and compare it to where you've landed now. How did your words and actions back then help to put you where you are today? Their impact was probably insignificant to you. Those words didn't have to happen, but they may have changed my path significantly, made me a different person than I would have been without your words. Words are so powerful, especially when you have nothing else.
The Planning Committee also queried:
We are a nation of bullies. We elected one. We have kids who show up at school with guns. I don't think they were bullied - I think they are the bullies. I never considered shooting anybody - I chose to remove myself rather than suffer the slings and arrows.
I think you are about 35 years too late. I do have some suggestions:
Send the names of people you can't find to the other 300 people you can find. Network. Try harder. They may not want to be found, but I know at least two you missed completely.
If you have children or grandchildren, teach them to not be bullies. Teach them that the people who are different are only that - just different, not better or worse. Teach them to not add to someone else's burden, especially the boys: teach them it's okay to care and it's not okay to insert yourself wherever you like.
Weigh your words and actions today against those you had yesterday, and plan for the future by making tomorrow's words and actions better than today's. The only person you can be better than is the one you are right now. Any other calculation is just bad math.
Look for ways you can ease someone's path in life - someone you don't know - and then do it without telling anybody.
If your parents are still living, thank them for providing the base you needed to get through those formative years into now.
Be grateful. Be grateful for everything you've lost, because loss is opportunity to grow.
Forget those golden years of youth, because they weren't all that golden.
Live each moment to capacity, but do it without taking that space from someone else.
Learn to recognise narcissism, and get it out of your life. Keep yourself safe, and after that protect those who depend on you. Don't support bigotry just because it's always been there.
Don't be a dick.
Don't assume your intentions are translating into the real world the way they seem to you.
You can't clean up the past. Just do everything you can to make sure what happened to us - all of us - doesn't happen to anyone else going forward. Don't let anybody be invisible.
Funny that movie came out the year after we graduated, or should have graduated, like it was about us. Maybe you thought it was just a movie, but it's damned accurate. You should have paid closer attention.
The Breakfast Club