We Are Different
A few months ago, I wrote about my upcoming 50th high school reunion (Using And Losing Time).
I was anticipating the event with both pleasure and anxiety. I was looking forward to seeing old friends again. But I worried that I had not been as ‘successful’ as I would have wished. That I wasted too much of my life. I had frittered away my future.
And of course, I worried that I wouldn’t be pretty enough, thin enough, popular enough. OMG, (which no one said way back then, btw (which also no one said)) – my worries have not changed in HALF A CENTURY!
WTF (which also no one said)...is wrong with ME????
So anyway, I watched my diet sort of successfully, dropping about 8 of the 15 pounds I figured would make my figure perfect. So I was half perfect. I bought a gorgeous dress that was too dressy for the occasion, but how was I to know the party wouldn’t be like a senior prom for actual seniors? I rescheduled my hair appointment so my gray roots would not be poking through. I did a practice run of my makeup. I even intended to add some falsies of the eyelash variety, but in the end was more worried about having them detach and fall into my salad, so went with my own skimpy lashes.
I had daydreams of creating an Entrance. Of being the center of attention. Of being the fascinating extrovert I had failed to be in high school.
But of course, I am not an extrovert. I am a people watcher, not a people magnet. I think perhaps I could command an entourage if I had a basketful of Reese’s peanut butter cups. But it was two weeks before Halloween, so that was not an appropriate entrance.
Still, I did enjoy myself. Oh yes, I was overdressed, but I knew I looked nice, so I didn’t worry too much about it. I saw many old friends. And they were as sweet and loving as I remembered. Some classmates who were acquaintances but not friends back then were warm and sincerely (or pretended to be sincere) interested in me. If they were just pretending, then I thank them for their good manners anyway.
More than 130 of our 450 classmates attended. A good showing, I think, after the passage of fifty years. An indication that being teenagers together was a sweet experience that we could still share.
But sharing that experience has left me surprised too.
Surprised at our differences.
We were a homogeneous group. After all, we were all exactly the same age, attended the same school, raised in the same town, affected by the same world events. And our town itself was homogeneous. Smack-dab middle class – not many of us either rich or poor. Our homes, our streets, our families were all but interchangeable.
And yet, looking around that room that should have been filled with such similarity – I saw not uniformity, but amazing variety.
Some of us looked old. Some looked young. Some were fat and some were thin. Some were healthy and some disabled. There were bald heads and extravagant hair. Sequins and tee shirts. Successful entrepreneurs and folks who struggled. Long happy marriages, newlyweds, singles, long-divorced. Parents, grandparents, childlessness. Religious. Atheist. Liberal. Conservative. Living abroad. Still living in the same house. Haughty. Modest. Loud. Shy.
I was astonished by the diversity of people who should have been all alike.
Which makes me consider the bedlam of this world.
My classmates who shared such common experiences are not common. They aren’t clones. They are all unique.
So what of people who do not share such similarity of background?
If folks raised the same grow up to be so different, what chaos comes from a world where folks have such a disparity of experiences?
And optimist that I am, I see that it is not so much chaos after all.
Oh,I recognize that there is war and hatred and unrest and bitter disagreement. But I am profoundly impressed that we have even a teaspoon of stability in this world. Why – with such dissimilarity in this world – we have not descended into complete anarchy is a testament to the intelligence and goodness of human beings.
I am amazed that we can communicate with any level of understanding. That we can buy and sell in global transactions. That we can accomplish objectives in the workplace. That we can build a school and send our children to be educated. That we can bring food into big cities and the internet to the rainforest. That we can take care of strangers in hospitals. Hell, I am impressed that we can drive cars without smashing into each other.
It seems to me that Humanity is an insane collection of differences that we all overlook in order to survive.
And most of us even smile through the insanity.