Monday, March 28, 2011

Teenagers are Idiots

We weren't friends in high school; I'm not sure she knew who I was back then. 

I certainly knew who she was. 

She commanded the hallways as she passed through them, her long straight blond hair swishing perfectly behind her.  We weren't in any classes together, but she was always in my consciousness.  She was, as they say, a presence.

I hadn't given her a thought until we sat across from one another at a reunion dinner a few years back.  The conversation was random and wine fueled.  Stories were shared, most all of them flattering to the teller.  Hers was one of confusion and consequences and love, lots and lots of love.  It was personal and revelatory and I was hearing it. 

At the other table sat the girls I remembered, the ones I sat next to in class, the ones who thought they knew my story as I thought I knew theirs.  Here at this table, no one knew me.  I was as foreign to them as they were to me.  So I listened.  And I learned.

I learned of tragedies which had struck others of that golden circle, of marriages gone awry, of kids with troubles and of plans unrealized.  There was laughter as youthful misdeeds were recounted, misdeeds which scared the hell out of me 40 years later.  In many ways they were so much older than I was back then.

And then I got shot.

I heard from long vanished buddies.  I was visited by neighbors I didn't know I had.  I had Facebook friend requests.  And classmates at a mini-reunion in Phoenix drove down to Tucson for lunch.  A dozen or so, they were warm and caring and interested and thoughtful and fun.  They had not been my friends or acquaintances or nodding neighbors when we were in high school, but that afternoon they were my friends. 

And the friendships have blossomed.  Three were back today, a Cali-Girl and two Phonecians, bringing me lunch and concern and themselves for three hours of chatter.  I heard my still-blond-new-old-friend (she really needs a better name, don't you agree?)  hearing the context and the emotion behind the talk of my recovery.  She was one step ahead of me, defining my position in words for which I had been searching.... fruitlessly searching.  She wasn't triumphant when I caught her eye and acknowledged that she really got it.  She just smiled and nodded her head.

And I realized, then and there, that teenagers are stupid. 

She had been confident in high school and that frightened me so I decided that we couldn't/wouldn't/shouldn't speak and so I never made an effort to see who she was underneath the aura.  I have no idea what she thinks, or thought, but I have no doubt that it was something equally inane.  We were teenagers,  after all. 

I bet that she was an old soul even then, and that having been here before she knew her way around.  Is that too hippie-dippie for you?   Then perhaps you have a better explanation for her ability to own a room, then and now. 

Had she thought to pursue me?  Does it matter?  Perhaps if we had shared classes together.... perhaps ... and again, does it matter? 

Right now, today, I have a yoga practicing, education oriented, lunch buying friend who is willing to drive 4 hours to spend 3 hours sitting around my kitchen table.  She is tuned in to a wavelength I just don't hear.  Without bringing her ego into it, she was understanding, clarifying and supporting my nascent thoughts. 

As my body heals, my brain has a chance to assume center stage.  My heart aches and I have the leisure time to explore the pain.  I've been 3 weeks without pain medication.  My muscles are waking up and my ligaments and tendons are stretching out.  I am preparing for Dr. Boaz to allow me to walk.  And I have time to think.

Sitting still is no longer a problem.  Random pains requiring narcotics do not appear any more.  I am uncomfortable but nothing worse. This is a good thing.

I am now aware of another kind of pain.  This one is closely associated with tears and loss and anger.  I've been ignoring it for a while.... for about 3 months.... since about January 8th.  But now, with the physical issues subsiding,  this one is asserting itself with authority.  I've just begun to share it aloud; my lunch guests are among the first to hear it.

She brought her wisdom to the table.  I basked in the simplicity of it all.

I'm glad that grown-ups are willing to take chances that teenagers eschew.

With age comes wisdom?  Maybe.  It's definitely bringing me more friends.


  1. Isn't it too bad that you had to get shot to find that out? I discovered, after going to reunions every five years since my 20th, that I have much the same situation. People who never spoke to me back then are rushing to greet me now as if I were a very old and beloved friend (and staying in touch). It was disconcerting when it first happened, but after a few times I began to see that the gestures were genuine - and then I decided I was a fool for not getting to know them years ago. Who knows what lurks in the mind of a teenager? I do - and all of it is silly.

  2. A beautiful post. I look forward to hearing more about these friends. I also hope you will continue to write about this next phase of your healing.

  3. Believing that the gestures are genuine... feeling like a fool .... wondering what teenagers thought/think.... you get it completely, Kenju.

    And yes, Linda, I will be writing about this phase, too. I can't do it without you :)

  4. We all do foolish things as a teenager. At times, I feel guilty for not giving people a chance. All because I had pre-conceived notion of who they are. With age comes experience to let little things go and to give people a chance.

    AB, I think it's great you are learning to look at people with a different set of eyes. That will also help you heal. You are seeing the good in so many people; even people you "thought" you knew. :)

  5. We were so ignorant--all of us. And, when you think about it, we had to be. We were only beginning to emerge from the bosoms of our families, our bodies had made us strangers to ourselves, and those self-concepts (and, indeed, our very meat computers) had all gone into defrag mode. That awareness helps me forgive all those alien others and myself, too.

    Like Kenju, I've been going to reunions--forcing myself to go, since I was painfully self-conscious in high school (and judged to be "stuck up" as a result). As our stories emerge, I confirm a belief that my work taught me: at any given moment, within the context we perceive, each of us is always just doing the best that we can.

    Give that cool, wise blonde my admiring regards.

  6. What a wonderful blessing to come from a tragic day...hooray for new friendships.

  7. This really isn't even just about youth but also how we tend to assume things about others. It can be throughout a lifetime and some never go beyond it. It's an important life lesson though to not be judging people by the stereotype-- either negatively or positively.

    I always figured the hardest part of your recovery or that of anyone who faces death and tragedy would be the emotional aspect. It takes time and even more so the willingness to face it squarely for what it is which you are doing here. We can't expect the emotions, mind and spirit to heal as rapidly as our physical body. If you were a shallow person, one with no depth, maybe it'd be easier but you clearly are not. So you will have the post traumatic stress to deal with along with the grief.

    Asking too much too fast won't do anything but attempt to bury what is still there and waiting. By the fact that you are facing it, I think you make it much more likely you will get over this and you will be a stronger person on many levels on the other side of it. It's not that it takes a tragedy to do that, but it either breaks or makes people when it comes along.

    Most of us go along with pretty stable lives, protected even, where we can plan what we want to have happen. When something penetrates that, it changes who we are. It deepens, it strengthens, it yields a dimension that people who have never experienced it won't ever have. It's not like any of invite tragedy or horror but when it happens, we have to deal with it internally as well as externally.

    To me, to have someone deliberately try to murder us, and then to lose a child so dear and near, well it's just not what many will go through. In many ways it will set you apart and I don't mean the 15 minutes of fame that comes with some of these things but what you know inside, the inner you, the strength. People will see it in you then even if they don't know why it's there.

    I hope you find the help you need for this time of pain and some will be friends. Some might be through writing or art, time with nature, maybe professional help if you need that. You deserve to have that help and as you have observed countless times here since it happened, it will take more than you by yourself-- but in the end, it's all going to be done by you. I believe it will be and for all who have said you were quite a woman before this happened, they ain't seen nothing yet is what I think.

  8. Sending love and strength--the non-physical healing will be the hardest part, but we are here to do whatever we can to help. xoxox

  9. I was sent by a friend who rec'd your site...I'm glad I stopped by. You know Ashleigh, I don't know if teens are stupid or just guarded and into their own emergence as a human being. Regardless, I was one of those 'old souls' because of abuse in my family, alcohol and just never felt that I fit in with the casualness of high school life.
    Now I am friends with many old high school and college friends through facebook and the friendship we have developed is real and rewarding; much as you are describing.
    I also think growing old does that to a person and the willingness to share is more important than superficial bullshit, don't you think?
    I enjoyed your blog and plan on stopping by to read another 'chapter' in your life.

  10. I've reached a point where I wish people of a certain age (mine, that is) would open up more. Some people are honest about their lives and feelings, while some are still clinging to the notion of "pretending" who they are. You can't make a connection with people if they won't let you in. I'm probably going off on a complete irrelevant tangent here, but your high school reunion story reminds me of how some people never change or grow up.

    It's very nice to hear about your good progress. I wish you for continued healing.

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