I dated a Charlie briefly. Well, dated in the way middle school kids do. We were “going out” but I don’t think we ever actually went anywhere. We probably never kissed either.

As I enter middle age, I’ve been thinking a lot about the people I grew up with. Maybe that’s because I see myself growing older while in my mind these people are forever teenagers. Or maybe it’s because we just started a Facebook group for the Alden High School class of 1997 and a lot of them have sent me friend requests. But in either case, I find it slightly bizarre that all these people I spent 40+ hours a week with for 13 years of my life are complete strangers to me now.

I was really naive in high school. My graduating class was small – about 140 kids. I won’t pretend that we were all friends–there were strong cliques of the stereotypical brainiacs, jocks, stoners, band geeks, popular girls, artistic types, goths, etc–but I think despite those divisions, we all knew each other fairly well. And growing up in a small town, I wasn’t really acquainted with much else besides my family life and my school life. So, naturally, the two of them were somewhat convergent in my mind. That is, I guess I always thought that everyone I went to school with would go on to college and find a decent, adult-type job afterward and be more successful than our parents. That’s what I was going to do and that’s just what middle class white kids in America are supposed to do, and I thought we were all middle class white kids. I certainly recognized that some of my classmates came from impoverished households or that some were not as successful in academics as others, and of course I recognized that we all had very different interests and talents. Nonetheless, I never questioned that we would all move into adulthood in similar ways that kept us bound together. What a foolish thing to believe. It takes all kinds to make this world and I could never have imagined all the different paths that my classmates’ lives would take. And in no way could I ever have guessed even close to the way my own life turned out.

So, back to Charlie. I don’t know anything about his life other than what I can glean from public access to his Facebook page, which shows just a few photos and the name of the company he works for. But that’s all I need to see to realize how vastly different his life is from mine. The same goes for any guy that I (very briefly) thought was so important to my life when I was young. The same goes for all of my close grade school friends and any of my former high school classmates. Some are far more successful than I and some obviously less so, some have moved far and wide across the world and country like I did and some still live in our small hometown. Some married their high school sweethearts, some married and, like I, since divorced strangers. In photos, they are (middle aged!) strangers with strange lives and strange friends and strange occupations and strange miniature versions of themselves standing close by. If I try hard to focus on just their faces, they can appear as teenagers again and I feel oddly close to them. But it’s so much more wonderful to see who they are as autonomous adults existing outside my myopic vision of us. I got a peek into these lovely people during our 10 year high school reunion and I can’t wait to find out more at our 20 reunion next year.

Eighth Grade Graduation

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11 thoughts on “Charlie

  1. I am coming up on my 5 year high school re-union and I know the feeling all too well! I keep in touch with a handful of highschool friends but that is about it. It will be interesting to reconnect at our 10 year reunion and see where everyone has ended up. Although with Facebook it seems a little harder because it is much easier to know that they got married and have 2 kids now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt so strange at my 10 year high school reunion and skipped my 20th. Facebook has connected many of us, too. I’m also from a small town, and I write memoir, and wonder how they feel about showing up in my stories. For the most part, the ones who know don’t care (at least about the few stories that were published).


    1. Oh yeah, that could be a little tricky if they know they are in some of your work and don’t approve. I’ve definitely stopped myself from writing certain things I wanted to because of who might read it. It’s a tough line to walk. But hey, if it happened it happened!


  3. I, too, remember all my school friends as they were back then. I’ve also severely lost touch with them, and haven’t spoken to many of them for over 20 years. I have tried to find out about some old friends on social media, but without much success. I don’t know that I want to see them as they are now. I kind of like remembering them all as they were, when I actually knew them.


    1. Yeah, it is kind of nice to just let the memories be as they were. Especially from this distance, I find I only remember the good stuff. It’s nice. Life is a lot less complicated and difficult in retrospect.


  4. Never had the chance to go to a school reunion (complicated story 🙂 but have been ‘re-united’ with school friends through FB. Their lives have taken turns that none of us imagined, but still, they don’t feel like strangers.

    Here from the A-Z and enjoyed your post
    Best wishes for the next reunion,
    Ninja Minion A-Z 2016


    1. Isn’t it amazing where life can take us? I wish I had had the foresight to write down my ideas on what would happen to my high school friends and what they would do with their lives. Would have been interesting to compare the results.


  5. I’ve had my share of Charlie’s, too. Its so weird to seem them on Facebook now and wonder what my life would have been like if I actually had ended up with one of them. I celebrated my 20 year reunion a couple of years ago and I realized I ended up exactly where I hoped I would 🙂 Love your post! Looking forward to keeping up with you!


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