I had my 40th high school reunion a couple of years ago. I graduated when I was two years old. We all met at our old high school and some of the current students gave a tour of the school.
One boy about 14 years old asked me politely “Excuse me. Were there many African Americans in this school way back then?” I smiled and thought – well first this is Canada and we didn’t call ourselves “African Americans.” You are watching too much television. “Black people” was the term of choice. And then I answered, “No. There was me and my sister and probably two miscellaneous Black boys that were nicknamed Bunga and Cougar.”
And then I remembered.
I was different. We weren’t rich. I wasn’t White.
What that meant in 1972 was that I believed that boys (who were all White except Bunga and Cougar) weren’t going to ask me out.
And they didn’t.
I never talked about this with my friends.
Believing that I’d never have a date or a boyfriend was my secret pain in high school, that I never shared and never talked about.
What I discovered at the high school reunion is that everyone was hiding something, not just me. There were dysfunctional families, a violent brother, secretly separated parents, family therapy sessions, rampant mental illness, money problems. This list is never-ending.
I also realized that the boys were just as shy as I was. And maybe the way I saw myself on the inside wasn’t the way I was seen on the outside. Maybe having two dates for my entire high school life, had more to do with being shy than with being Black.
And then again, I had two dates – one at the grad dance and one for a sweet sixteen party. Maybe relatively speaking, that was a lot.
Back then, I believed that my thoughts were the truth. I didn’t question my beliefs.
Now, I know that many of the things that we believed about ourselves in high school, just weren’t true.
What outdated painful beliefs are you still holding onto?
I know that the world is a lot more challenging for young people these days than it was in the 1970’s, but things are changing, like this Volkswagen ad. It warms and heals my 16 year old heart. Take a look here: