Ah, the good ol’ days …

Am I the only one feeling a lack of nostalgia concerning one’s first school years?

20 years ago I started in elementary school and I graduated 10 years ago. That’s something to celebrate.

… Isn’t it?

Well, the very same class I started and graduated together with has decided to celebrate it in our hometown this summer. Some of them have tried persistently throughout the last couple of years to get hold of us all on Facebook for a get-together, but have failed to make anything happen so far.

True, my school years were not the worst of the worst, but I have no overly fond memories of them either. After all, I went to school for 10 years with the same group of kids and going to school was obligatory – what was one supposed to expect? I was a kid and was as easy to please/entertain as I was to get hurt. One could easily make friends by simply saying ‘wanna play?’ or enemies by disagreeing who should play with the prettiest Barbie doll. Rarely much thought came with one’s actions. As one grew older, toys and games became less prominent in the ways of interactng and were replaced by more complex ‘games’ of emotional and hormonal rollercoaster-rides, adopting the adults’ more hard-hitting humour (more awareness, yet no more thought behind) and partying and drinking. The stakes had changed. Everyone was trying to find their places in the world, hierarchy by hierarchy; starting, naturally, with one’s school class. Some kept throwing their weight about, physically and verbally, others experimented with how much power they could gain through various devious, manipulative methods, while a few sat by the ‘High Table’, holding court like kings or queens and whom everybody looked up to (eventhough they did nothing special to earn those titles). A couple stayed quiet because the turmoil stayed on the inside, and of course they often received the worst of the brunt. The latter (surprise; I was one of them) became the scapegoats and/or the wallflowers of the group. Of course, this only got worse the older we got. It didn’t matter that we had known each other for almost ten years at that point. The hormones (or something that’s beyond me) took charge!

Should I have known my mates would suddenly turn on me and those they for some pathetic reason deemed weaker? Should I have seen it coming? Could I excuse their behavior for merely being hormonally induced? Perhaps. But… It wasn’t like I wasn’t hormonal too, you know. I was no angel, but at least I didn’t frequently patronize or bully or mock my peers simply because I felt like it or because I had a bad day. I just kept to myself and did my homework. Which may have provoked something in those still-developing brains of theirs. Who knows? I also looked like a nerdy, lanky tomboy-reject from a 1970s’ school photography of the latest arcade game club; bowl haircut, glasses and all (let’s just say, I would fit perfectly into a Wes Anderson movie). I guess such a strange ‘non-girl’ was very confusing for everyone else trying so (too) hard to find their places in the heteronormative systems. So they had to say something, of course, though I never asked for their opinions. Well, kids are kids. Actions forgiven, but not forgotten. To this day I cannot help feeling a touch of old-time betrayal whenever I have bumped into any of them back home.

Still, I wasn’t the one who took the worst of the brunt (though some of it was pretty rough) from those so-called mates of mine. I am ashamed to say I witnessed some awful stuff that I was too stunned by and too much of a coward to interfere with. There was even this one time when I was the mocker, and I will never ever forget the face of the poor girl who happened to be at the receiving end and had done nothing to deserve my vile words. I simply wanted to show off in front of my other friend. I remember feeling so bad the moment the words left my mouth, seeing her face crumple in shock and hurt (and she did not have a very pleasant life at home, in the first place. Boy, did I feel double-bad!) while my friend giggled and we turned away and continued with our usual frivolity like nothing happened. But I felt so paralyzed within. Didn’t recognize myself. And I wondered how the others who did this on a daily/weekly/yearly basis felt? Did they really feel better from projecting that kind of stuff? Did they really tell themselves that this was the way to find a place and role in the world? To be grown-up and cool?! No, it was beyond me.

I couldn’t have been much more than 13 years old, and suddenly I had grown light years older in my awareness.

So this whole reunion-celebration-anniversary-whatever-invitation this summer is awkward to say least. They write in the invitation that – besides all the summer frivolities – we are going to ‘gossip all night long’. Really? What are we to gossip and bond over? ‘The good, old days when we were one, big, happy group of kids and our 10 years togetherness’? Yeah, right. In that case, they remember our school years very differently than I. What do they expect we have in common anymore? We’ve grown soooo much in those last ten years. Are we supposed to ‘share all the good memories’? Sure, there was a few, but those I remember most clearly were when we were playing ball and forgetting ourselves for a moment; with no hackling or power-play. Just kids getting excited about a stupid, but oh-so-essential, little ball in the school yard, getting sweaty and exercise all our frustrations out through the simplest of games – where the only danger of getting hurt was scraping one’s knees.

I know (via Facebook) most of them still live close to our hometown or even in the town (still – after all these years, geez) and that some of them have maintained some contact during the years, so I will be one of the few who have lived ‘far’ away from home and not been in close contact with any of the others. As far as I know, we’re also only few who have taken a college education. Not that it is time to get all snobbish, but I’m not sure whether any of the others will go all the way back home for this. At any case, I will be an outsider who shares no greater nostalgia for my past school years nor have a need to stay close at home or keep in contact with old school mates. But why pretend? The ‘school mates’ I connected with (and still stay in contact with) were first and foremost from my high school years.

Shouldn’t I give them a shot, you may ask? Am I not a little harsh and unfair? If I expect we have all more or less grown so much since we last saw each other, don’t I expect them to be different than what I remember them to be? To have become nice and behaved grown-ups?

Honestly, I’ve spent most of my life since our graduation to move on and separate myself from that time. To free myself and become myself, since I felt stuck in the role I ended up having in that class. I do not hate that time; I accept what it was and that we were all just kids growing up and trying out the world (though, I never counted on that it was to be tried out on each other as well), but I honestly cannot evoke or fake any lingering nostalgia about that era of my life. Most times that I’ve happened to bump into one of the people from school in our hometown, I’ve more or less avoided them (yeah, really mature, I know), but I hate putting up a front of fake politeness, so most of our chance-meetings became nothing more than a awkward, crooked half-smile or brief, stilted greeting. A rare time or two some of them started a conversation like nothing has happened, but all I kept thinking was: ‘Don’t you remember what you said and did back then – at all?!’.

I have no real desire to get to know any of them. I have moved on. It may sound harsh and unfeeling, but I cannot help feeling that that chapter of my life is over and I have no nostalgia left to even find an anniversary celebratory and cozy. Not in my case. If the others feel it, let them! I honestly think they remember those school years differently than I do. Or they have managed to become nostalgic about us being kids … or something.

Sure, this coming reunion (which I don’t know if I’ll participate in) could prove to be all fun and interesting, such as hearing what the others are up to – instead of always hearing it through our parents (or maybe it’s just me). But again, I’m not that interested beyond that nor renewing any friendships (which were barely there in the first place). Sorry. And not to be a full-fledged pessimist, but I can almost see the strained, put-on front we’ll all have adopted beforehand when we meet each other – and I’m not entirely sure it’ll just melt away if we give it some time and a couple of drinks and that we’ll ‘fall right back into the good, old patterns’. I’m not so sure how ‘good’ those old patterns ever were … But then again, they may see something I don’t.

However, some say nostalgia is denial – denial of a painful past.

I have a wicked wish of wanting to ask them if they indeed remember any of the less ‘good, old’ episodes in our school days together. Now, there’s something I’m interested to know about – all polite masks aside! To really see how they react and if they indeed have changed! I certainly have my suspicions about one or two of them, but I’m not sure if they will come to this event. Hell, I’m not even sure I’ll come – and what does that say about me? That I’m a cold-hearted bitch who feels too high-and-mighty to join the rest of them? Perhaps. I have persistently stayed away from the sporadic, back-and-forth conversations on Facebook regarding this renunion – which I honestly hoped there would come nothing of since it has failed to do so the last couple of years. Now I would look even more an ass if I don’t show up when they’ve finally pieced something together, right? Especially since I know I’ll be back in my hometown this summer – and given it’s a very small town, it would be a miracle if I don’t bump into any of them and then I’ll have to come up with some sad excuse for not joining the party … Ugh. Maybe I’ll just have to grin and bear it. Smile like nothing happened.

… Really?

I wish I felt nostalgic about my earliest school years. I really do. But I don’t and I’m not going to as long as I remember what also happened beyond all the supposedly good stuff and the fact that we were just kids etc. etc. (though, people were equally if not more bad in their teens). Funny how you can still be hung up about the past yet not be nostalgic. Some – or most – would probably say: “Ah, would you relax! Forget about all that stuff for a minute and have some fun, will you?”. Hm, yeah, well, if only it was that easy. Again, I’ve forgiven but not forgotten, and I cannot face the past and be asked to forget it at the same time. It does not compute in my brain and if that is very INTP or very me, then that’s that. I cannot change it. I’ve been in such situations before and tried to do so, but I never quite succeed. I will rarely make greater fuss about it during the event itself; schooling my attitude to that of fake politeness and overall friendliness, but that doesn’t mean it sits well with me or that I don’t go home with a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Whether it was the wine or something else. And I hate that; knowing fully there’s little one can do about it; it’s just life, and I sense this will be more or less the situation after the reunion – if I attend it. I’m not sure I want to have it confirmed. And yes, I could go to have it unconfirmed – and if it was anybody else I would. I just don’t feel it’s worth it with these guys. What do I have to renew or give a second chance, when there hardly was a first chance?

We were just a random bunch of kids, compulsory put together in the same class in 1996. Who said we were to become life-long friends and always have something in common other than we happened to start in school together? When so much happens those years growing up and that it seems only natural one has little in common with the kid one once was? I have no overt desire to revisit who I once was. I have no need to reminisce of the closed-off child I was at school; for so long boxed in between all the others who elbowed their way to the front in various ways. Not because I am bitter about that era of my life or hate that version of myself. I simply accept it as a chapter of my life that I have written and have no desire to revise because then I wouldn’t be where I am now. I want to be the person I needed as a child: Someone to speak up and stand up in the face of injustice. I cannot be silent and smile one more time – just to keep the waters calm. What is past is past, but I will not pretend it was never there either. The truth of the past. And that may be to put way too much into an innocent, little reunion, but I’m only trying to explain the lack of – anything really – I feel towards my former school time and ‘mates’. I might not give it a chance but again, why should I when there was hardly one to begin with?

And maybe that’s just me – being weird. But I cannot change how I feel and what I cannot forget.

“…It’s strange how I’m reliving it, hour by hour, with the mission of neutralizing it, and transforming it into an inoffensive past that I can keep in my heart without either disowning it or suffering from it. That’s not easy. It’s at once painful and poetic.”

— Simone de Beauvoir, from a letter to Jean-Paul Sartre c. January 1947 featured in Letters to Sartre

*revised 25/10/18*


Well, to begin with the beginning.

For so long – all my life, really – I’ve thought that there was something wrong with me (or the world) since I always felt so different from everybody else. Not in a ‘I’m superior to all of you’-kinda way (though I behaved as a self-obsessed, little diva as a kid and certainly tricked myself into believing it at times in order to test the waters around me), but the other, contradictory part of being an INTP – at least in my case – has always been the feeling of personal insignificance and humility; the natural, but constant down-playing of yourself. I continue to do so, mostly when trying to function in the outside world, which is problematic when we are being taught that being ambitious, competitive, self-praising and putting yourself first is a given in order to get a job and career nowadays. How are you supposed to rebel against that and never give in?? It is not a way of life I want. Like so many else, I’ve always tried to find someone or something to identify with; someone like me and though I found people who shared the same interests as me (mostly online), in general it was hard finding a sense of community that resonated my own mind and reasoning. Yeah, elementary school and high school are pretty much going up stream but I still missed that significant voice that said it was OK to feel and think how I felt and thought. That I wasn’t the only girl who felt tomboyish, bookish, more or less out of place socially (I was pretty much a lone wolf), wasn’t into clothes, boys and battling for power like the other girls, and was independent and confident in my academic abilities. Though, I was always handicapped when it came to mental arithmetic, and the teachers complained in general that I didn’t say enough in class despite they knew I knew the answers. There’s a perfectly reasonably explanation for that, however, as another INTP explained:

“People think you’re slow at thinking because there’s quite some time before you reply to what they’re saying. In reality, though, you’re lightning fast; it’s just that you’re having a mental shootout over a lot of things, like the possibilities and implications of what’s been said, whether they’ll think you’re slow at thinking because you haven’t replied yet, or whether you should say anything at all, and then finally decide to reply, but then forget what you were going to say.”*

… Or you were simply too late to answer and somebody already beat you to it. That was the daily fare in my case, anyhow. I wish I had this explanation as a kid.

In school, when I was about 16 years old, we had about narcissism as a theme in literature, which appeared once again in psychology class in high school, and for a long time I thought this was my ‘diagnosis’ for my conflicted self: The megalomania with the contraditory mix of inferiority. I still have it, these tendencies, but I don’t know whether it is as extreme as once predicted. It’s not such an outrageous term anymore. Everyone is more or less a narcissist nowadays.

Then for a while I thought I basically suffered from schizoid personality disorder after reading about Kafka having been suspected of suffering the same, and as I began to read about the disorder I found frighteningly many similarities to my own life. Crazy, right? I remember discovering this during class at university not so long ago and I literally felt ill by the thought of having this disorder! Of course, I didn’t – or rather, it seemed pointless to even try to self-diagnose myself since I’m in no way qualified to do so! It’s always stupid to panic. But it left me rather stupefied and shocked that I had come so close to identifying with the traits of a personality disorder than anything else!

Then, by sheer luck and some panicked research, I discovered MBTI. That I am – without a doubt – an INTP. It came as both a surprise and a given when I first read about it. It all makes sense when I think about. My entire life has basically been caught in this maelstrom and finally the waters have calmed somewhat. I have found my ship. My crew. To set me on a straighter path. Other people who have experienced a life much like my own, almost scaringly similar in detail. That the reason I haven’t met anyone like me, especially not any girls, is because we are so few. But we are there. Not to mention, actual scientific terms for a personality like mine. Not just my being weird, an anomaly; the geek girl in the stereotypical bunch of high school/college students. I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding. This was what I had been searching for all this time! And though my identity crisis never had reached the levels of extreme as I had seen around me among my peers, inside some essential cogwheels had been missing and now they were in place. I didn’t have to hide and excuse myself anymore, like some circus freak. At least, not as much. The clock still needs some work, though. Hell, it will probably not be finished before my deathbed, but that’s alright. I’ve got some time.

INTPs are often thoroughly engaged in their own thoughts, and usually appear to others to be offbeat and unconventional. The INTP’s mind is a most active place, and their inward orientation can mean that they neglect superficial things like home décor or appropriate clothing. They don’t tend to bother with small talk but can become downright passionate when talking about the larger theoretical problems of the universe. Reality is often of only passing interest to an INTP, as they are more interested in the theory behind it all. INTPs are typically precise in their speech, and communicate complex ideas with carefully chosen words. They insist on intellectual rigor in even the most casual of conversations, and will readily point out inconsistencies of thought or reasoning. Social niceties may fall by the wayside for an INTP who is more interested in analyzing logic, and they may offend others by submitting their dearly held values and beliefs to logical scrutiny. (via fictionalcharactermbti)