My stomache had been aflutter all day. In fact, once I finally got to bed late the night before, I had a difficult time calming my excited mind enough to drift off to dream land. The butterflies only flitted more frantically as I approached the small town where the concert would be held. This was not just any concert. One of my most beloved young bands was putting on a show in the high school that, for good or bad, shaped who I have become.
A left turn brought me down the same street I had traveled so many times as a teenager. I paused at the stop sign for a deep breath in, a deep breath out. The building still looked exactly the same. I was not prepared for the onslaught of emotion as I pulled into the parking lot. All those doubts, all those fears, all those glances, and snickers that said, “we are better than you,” rushed back. I had internalized all those things and in recent years had been fighting so hard to learn how to surf those waves instead of drown in them. It all came rushing back in a black torrent of bitterness, catching me without my surfboard. I fought back with four spoken words, “I hate this place.” As if they were Moses’ staff with the power to miraculously hold the past at bay.
Football players came out of the locker rooom to take the field. The click of their clets on the pavement grated at the long forgotten scars. The players in my class managed to cause some of those scars just because of who they were, and who I was, or was not. Maybe it wasn’t their fault, or mine. The flood waters burst forth, tearing at those scars, reminding me the pain still remains.
I didn’t come here to watch football, or sit in my car. I came to support The Band. I came to take pictures. This is who I am now. Loving music then brought ridicule. Now I go to concerts, take pictures, chat with bands and network when the opportunity arises. A few more deep breaths push the emotions deep down, and I get down to business.
I morphed from banker-Megan to rocker-Megan, which involves putting on jeans and black eyeliner, then met up with my friend, L, who planned and promoted the show. As we entered the school building, I was once again shocked by how much this simple act affected me. We met a couple of L’s friends, but it was difficult for me to concentrate on the conversation. I imaginged all the faces, like ghosts, walking passed, the voices echoing in the halls.
When L took us onto the stage, my two identities collided. On this stage I had tried out for a musical as a freshman, young, insecure, inexperienced. I got the part of curtain puller. Utterly rejected, I sat behind the curtain watching all the more attractive and talented students get dolled up and perform. On this stage I performed countless band, choir, and show choir performances. Though I appeared to be one of the group on stage, when the performance ended, so did my inclusion in the group. I always felt like an outsider, searching for a place to fit doing something I loved with people who noticed me.
So maybe you can imagine my reaction when we entered this same stage so many years later. This band consisting of young men I love like brothers is setting up for a show tonight. I stand in almost the same spot, next to that same stupid curtain I pulled when I was about 15, watching them set up their gear. One by one as they notice me they greet me by name with a hug and thank me for coming. Hold on, time out for tears.
After The Band finished set up and sound check, it was dinner time. I was quiet, which I didn’t understand then. In general, I’m not a very good conversationalist. I’m an excellent listener and can keep a conversation going, if someone else starts it. In this situation, I was tired, surrounded by a larger group of people I didn’t know that well, and experiencing a lot of emotion without quite realizing it. The classroom represented difficult memories I had been trying to overcome for a long time, The Band represented the person/identity I am trying to become. It was too much to handle emotionally. Add trying to create a conversation. Yeah, that’s too much social pressure. So I just ate quietly. I’m good at quiet.
It wasn’t until I went searching for my old self that I consciously realized what was going on inside my head and heart. I knew my senior class photo was hanging somewhere in the hallways. So I went searching. Why you ask? Good question. Curiosity mostly. When I got confused by L’s directions, I yelled down the hallway for clarification! Current Me doesn’t do things like that! How obnoxious, ugh! That’s something High School Me would do! Well, I did it. I also yelled some other obnoxious, mean-spirited things about the school. What’s the Bible say about guarding your tongue? Because I think I just reverted back to about 16! Guess that’s what happens when I repress feelings, but honestly, who was going to sit down that night and have a counseling session with me about my issues from high school? Then wasn’t the time. I didn’t even grasp what was going on.
When I found the Senior Class Composite for the Class of 2001 (yeah, now you know how old I am) I just stood there staring at my 18-year-old self with a strange mixture of amusement and hatred. I didn’t even look at anyone else like I had planned. I was going to pour out hatred on the images of those who had caused me pain or embarrassement. The only image I could focus on was my own, which I could only stand to look at for maybe 60 seconds. Turning the corner to return to the Auditorium, I got my first inkling that being back was affecting my emotions and behavior. When the lead singer of The Band, who was setting up merch, asked if I had “found myself” I just quickly answered, “yep.” He had now idea how profound his question was at that moment.
The rest of the night went well. I took photos at the concert. About half-way through The Band’s set, I got a migraine. I could have been emotional stress. It could have been lack of sleep. It could have been other things. I kept shooting.
When I got to my car to leave, after saying good-byes and sending The Band off, I really felt something was up. Usually after a show, I leave a little sad because it’s over, I had a good time, and I have to go home. That’s normal. But I’m also charged and excited, going over the fun and exciting moments in my mind on the drive home. Tonight was different. At first I thought it was because I was so tired. It was a shorter drive home than usual, but I realized that I felt so different because my past and my present had collided.
So now, what do I do with this? (part 2, coming soon)
Have you ever had a similar experience?
How did it affect you?