After spending a week in New Haven before Thanksgiving, memories of high school were surfacing in my head with an unusual frequency. On top of that, tonight I had a long-overdue conversation with one of my best friends from that period, and now the memories have sprouted and are teeming around in my consciousness to the extent that I'm trying to sleep but can't because they are too loud and too numerous. All this, of course, is exacerbated by the fact that I'm now dating my unrequited love from high school.
And yes, so much has changed since then. And yes, that fact is not surprising, nor is it original. But it is interesting to think about the changes or lack thereof in my life from then to now.
My friends meant absolutely everything to me. Spending time with them was almost an addiction in the way it made happy, and even more so in the way it made me feel when I didn't get enough of it. You couldn't blame them. No matter how close you are with someone, you normally don't want to do everything with them all the time, but I didn't seem to feel that way. The best times with them, in my memory, can be distinctly captured and framed in a picture of all of us on the large trampoline in my back yard. There we were, high school students with what we thought was the weight of the world on our shoulders, jumping up and down for hours on a children's toy my mom and dad had bought for my younger brother.
This explains why it felt like such a symbolic gesture a few years later when it was my job to take the now barely recognizable heap of bent metal to the dump. My parents' tenuous marriage had finally ripped beyond the point of repair, my best friend from the fourth grade through high school had disappeared in the haze of college transition, and I was sitting on the frozen ground with a hacksaw, pulling springs apart and cutting through fused aluminum joints.
The girl I loved blindly for years without any hope of seeing my adoration returned, the girl who never wanted anything to do with me in a romantic sense (and sometimes altogether), now tells me daily how much she loves me. I was convinced then and for many years following that I was destined to be the second choice--only attractive to those seeking a rest from the heartache caused by assholes, and only attractive for the time it took them to heal before chasing after the same assholes once again. I know that isn't true anymore. I know that she loves me, but it's difficult to rid years of conditioning repetition from my head so quickly.
Most if not all of my lesser friends from then have faded away, leaving only a small handful of people that stay close no matter how lengthy the periods of silence between us. The house I spent most of my life in is not really my home any more. The city I grew up in is going through a drastic metamorphosis, shedding its old familiar skin at a frenetic pace. And ever since the Christmas when I ended up decorating the tree alone, holidays have lost all their Rockwellian innocence and are instead dominated by the gentle but ever-present pulling by parents on either side of me.
Yet I'm anxiously anticipating my return to the place that was once my home, to again try to revive what I remember so fondly; to refresh some of my happiest memories in the wellspring of their origin; to dust off those few indestructible friendships that make up the bedrock of a growing number who remain long after casual acquaintances fall away; to gather with family and to savor those last remaining drops of idyllic holiday memories; to reinforce my reminder that I am loved by those people that matter.