It’s Cyber Monday and I have not bought one thing for myself today (except for a cup of coffee)!!!! Yes, this is mainly because I am ~le broke~ thank you for reminding me, but ALSO BECAUSE I’M APPARENTLY SHOWING SOME SUPER INTENSE SELF CONTROL! As you can see, I am pleased with myself.
This weekend was an interesting one — our first big holiday without our Matriarch. And we made it through! It was very hard at times, and it kind of seemed as if the whole thing had a cloud of darkness hanging over it, but we managed best as we could. And I’m very very proud of my family. But now I’m back in New York doing work and avoiding the insanely tempting online sales, looking forward to meeting my roommate tonight to buy a Christmas tree and drink wine and definitely not unpack my suitcase/put away the load of laundry that I did last Monday night. Oops.
Things that also happened this past weekend: I actually went out in my hometown and met up with people from high school. *SHUDDERS AS IF SHE JUST WALKED THROUGH A MASSIVE SPIDER WEB* I know, who the hell am I? And guess what… I even. Had. Fun. Whaaaaat?
But yes, I did it. I went out on Friday night and met up with a group of girls from my class who I hadn’t seen in several years and we had a great time catching up. Those drinks turned into more drinks with another friend from high school, and then all of a sudden it was 12:30AM and I was surrounded by people whom I swore I would never see again for the rest of my life.
Side note: I never used to go out when at home. In college, I turned my nose up at my high school “friends,” and after school, mom was obviously sick so when I was home I wanted to spend every waking moment with her and felt guilty at the thought of meeting up with people and heading out to the bars. But my hometown happens to be a very fun place (who knew, not 17 year old me..) and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this little revelation.
So somehow I found myself with a Corona in hand, dancing to shitty pop music in a dive bar alongside people who I hoped I’d never have to see again after our graduation (aka one of the happiest days of my life) 8 years ago. And I was having a great time. And what was even more surprising, is that they were happy to see me, and I was happy to see them.
It’s strange how we all change and grow up and seldom notice it happening. When I think back to the person I was at 17, when I was stuck in a school I detested with people I struggled to connect with, it makes sense that I never wanted to see these kids again. But that’s not their fault — it’s not because they were necessarily bad people (well some were complete dicks and man, those girls could be brutal), it was just that we were fundamentally different. I wanted to get as far away from our awkward, southern/midwestern town as soon as possible, and they wanted to play sports and party… two things that were foreign to me at the time (I was captain of the swim team, but our school was known for being the state Field Hockey and Lacrosse champions, and it wasn’t until the second semester of senior year that I started to get invites to their parties).
I went to a very small, private prep school in the east end of the city. There were 62 kids in my class. Everyone was very…preppy. J. Crew, Burberry scarves, BMWs…and I was an artist. I wanted to be on Broadway. I tried to do the whole Lacoste polo and Seven for All Mankind jeans for a while, but hell, it just wasn’t me. I was always just a little bit different. And they didn’t like different. They could be so insanely mean – the girls AND boys. I don’t like to hold grudges, but sometimes it’s hard for me not to.
And that tiny private school was hell on earth. Though I shouldn’t make it sound like I was some friend-less loser, I had my people at school, it was just that the majority of my friends went to other schools. I transferred into KCD a year in, so my friendships were just never as tight as some of the others. For this reason, I was a bit of a floater — I had a lot of friends in a lot of different groups. But no real best friends. So it wasn’t rare for me to be left out of things.
I spent just as many Friday nights home alone in my room as I did out at football games trying to fit in. I hated it, but there was something in me that craved acceptance from these people who I claimed to despise. I wanted to be invited to the slumber parties with the girls, and to be included in drinking gross, warm beer in the basements of the boys’ houses. But since this wasn’t happening, I began hanging out more and more with my friends from other schools.
This opened a whole new door. It turned out, the boys all saw my tagged photos on facebook, and they wanted to meet these other friends. So soon enough, I started getting invited around to their houses with Emily or Rachel or Emmie. Which in turn just made the girls dislike me more. But I had an in! And the girls being a little more dismissive didn’t bother me if it meant I had plans on Friday night.
And then things didn’t work out, and I was left back where I was: feeling alone and desperate for a new chapter.
It’s funny thinking back to all of this now. I’ve forgotten just how hard it was. College almost erased that shitty HS experience. You see, I was the type who knew they were going to flourish when I went off to school, and that’s exactly what I did.
When I moved to New York, I knew no one. I was free to be whoever I wanted. I had a chance that most people don’t ever have – a truly clean slate. A fresh start to be me, or not me, or just simply, who I had always been with no one there to stand in my way. And wow, was it glorious. I remember coming home for Christmas that year and my best friend from home saying, “Ashton asked me if you’d turned into a New York Bitch. I told her, ‘Ailsa’s always been a New York Bitch.” I still laugh at that. But I was me! I was living in the greatest city in the world, I didn’t have to worry about what stupid people who didn’t like me were saying behind my back, and for the first time was surrounded by totally likeminded people. And it was INCREDIBLE.
I think this made me resent my high school years even more. It made me want to distance myself from those people, that school, as much as possible. Once while I was home visiting one summer, I pulled into the parking lot at Target and there saw a girl from my class pulling into the spot next to me. I physically ducked so that she wouldn’t see me, and stayed down until she had gotten inside and I could safely avoid her. Another time while I was living in London, I was walking out of my flat, late to class, and I hear very familiar voice that I haven’t heard in years yell, “AILSA!!!!!!” and immediately start thinking oh no oh no oh GOD no don’t let that be who I think it is, and sure enough, I look up and who’s running towards me but one of those loud, exclusive douchebags from school. That was quite a surreal moment. (I should say, while he still may be loud, he does not seem to be a douchebag anymore.)
Now sometimes I think, did I think I was better than them? Because I wanted something I believed was so different out of life than they did? If that’s the case, then that’s pretty shitty. But I don’t think so. Many of them are in big cities, just like me, or in law school, or medical school, or raising families… doing their own things. On their own paths. I realized that I really shouldn’t hold grudges from 10 years ago against these people, who seem genuinely happy to see me and interested in talking to me, no matter how taken aback I may feel. I’ve grown, and so have they. So when we found each other in this little bar in St. Matthews, dancing to Rihanna and laughing and reminiscing about senior prom and Nathan’s Derby party, I realized, these people aren’t my enemies. They just didn’t get me. More than once someone mutters, “Ailsa you’re so cool,” or, “Why didn’t we ever hang out more in high school?” And I’m torn because part of me is mad that they never put the effort into getting to know me, and part of me truthfully doesn’t know. Maybe because you wouldn’t let me in, or maybe it was because I wouldn’t.
Strangely enough, I’m looking forward to seeing them again at Christmas.
“People tend to play in their comfort zone, so the best things are achieved in a state of surprise, actually.”
– Brian Eno