Monday, May 10, 2010

I hated it

I took The Girl for a drive on Saturday, to my hometown. I was dropping Emily at her grandparents' for a sleepover, and it was lovely to have her company. I've written a lot about my experiences as a kid. Before we moved to the town my parents now live in, I had a most awesome childhood. Three brothers, a bike, the run of my suburban neighbourhood, and the freedom of childhood.

It all changed when I moved. Small, closed community. A neighbourhood with few kids. We found things to do, of course, as kids do. We spent our summers wading in the river, or hiking along the river road. We spent our winters on the toboggan hills and at the rink. But until I was halfway through my teen years, my experience with my peers was mostly horrendous. I was ostracized and bullied - back then, hardly anyone new moved into town, and when they did, they were treated with disdain. The only people that mattered were people who had always lived there, who had parents and grandparents that grew up in the same insular community. I think that a lot of small towns are like this. Or they were, before technology made the world much smaller. When I go back now, I see a community that has doubled in size, that is rich and somewhat diverse. Even when I lived there as a young single mom, it was a more accepting place.

I try not to think about high school, really. Much of it is best forgotten anyways. Who wants to remember rotten lunches in their locker, or the french fries that got spit on when I went up to the counter for salt? Or the endless name calling that took place before, during and after school. When I turned sixteen, I stopped caring what people thought - I grew a tougher skin, and I started holding my head up a wee bit higher. But I couldn't get past it - it took me years to realize I was not the names they called me. I am not ugly, I am not stupid, I am not useless, I am not better off dead. I moved away from home and found people that could accept me - in spite of the massive social anxieties that I'd developed after years of being bullied.

I have a love/hate relationship with my hometown. It is a beautiful place. Most of my family lives there - my parents, my brothers and their wives, my nieces and nephews, some of my aunts and uncles. I feel simultaneously at home and alienated when I am there.

I wanted to show The Girl some of the places that I loved, the houses I lived in, the hills I sledded, the river that was my second home. So after dropping Emily off, we took a little tour. Through town and across the main street bridge, past the waterfalls. Over another bridge, where the limestone rock was flat enough that we could wade all the way across the river. Past the little white house that my parents bought when they first moved...a tiny two-bedroom house for four children and themselves. We turned around in the driveway of the prefab that they had built on the extra-large lot...ruining the best toboggan hill in the neighbourhood, I might add. And then we crossed town to the house I lived in as a teenager.

I had to drive by the high school to get there. Exactly the same as it always was, institutional red brick. Big field and running track at the side of the school. Parking lot devoid of cars and smokers, because it was Saturday. I glanced over my shoulder as we drove past, and I said "There's my high school. I hated it."

And then it hit me. I hated it. I really did - not in the casual way that people hate sauerkraut or math class. I hated it with a visceral, physiological hatred that I could feel in my body. I said it over and over again.

I hated it.
I hated it.
I hated it. I hated it.

The Girl was so amazing. She made me stop the car, and she rubbed my back and held me while I cried. I thought I was over it, I thought that I could go back there and face the memories with the barrier of time between myself and the rawness of my pain. I guess not.

I don't hate the people that went to school with me. Or the misguided teachers that perpetuated the bullying. Or the town. I don't even hate the building that houses so many memories. But the experience? My fear? My self-loathing? My belief that I was not worthy, never good enough to have friends, to date, to experience the things that other kids were able to do - you know, dances, house parties, hanging out on the street corner? I can hate that.

When I changed my relationship status on my facebook, one of my high school friends was very excited, because now I would have a date for Homecoming (think about a high school reunion for an entire town...that's homecoming). I know there's a reunion of some kind. On one hand, I'd really like to show up and show them what success looks like. On the other hand, I don't want to remember, and I'm terribly afraid that I'll spend the entire reunion walking up to the people that caused so much pain and telling them exactly what I think of the way they treated me. Because you know I'll do just that.

It's ironic that such a beautiful place can hold so much sadness.


Mel's Way or No Way said...

As painful as it was, now you've felt it and can deal with it and go on. Hugs to you.

Camlin said...

Thank you!

The strange thing is, I thought that all the pain was behind me, and that I had dealt with it.

Kalisis Rising said...

I am glad you had someone supportive and caring to go with you and who was there for you in a time of vulnerability. Hate is a powerful emotion that can propel us forward, up and onto better things. It has most likely served you well all these years, and now, perhaps was the perfect time to let it go. I'm proud of you for letting the feelings come and then releasing them; I hope that you were able to clear them out to make way for other, beautiful thoughts and feelings.

Anonymous said...

No matter how far you've come, going back to your hometown always has a way of making you feel like a kid again - sometimes not in good ways. I'm glad you had The Girl with you to help you through it.

Anonymous said...

I have found it is sometimes better to face those memories, to feel them and then you can move past them. And you had someone special there to help you face them.

I understand the worries of homecoming. I thought the same with my reunion which I ended up not going to (friends bday instead). I want to go up to these people and say, see, look how far I have come and you thought I was a nobody. But then what is the point, we have moved on and so have they.

jelly said...

I had a very unpleasant time in high school as well. And when I go 'home' it stirs up some strange feelings.
But, we move on and grow...we are much better for it.

Making Space said...

I'm glad you had her there to hold you.

I can't even begin to imagine going back to my high school for any social event ever ever, and my experience was nowhere near like yours.

shane rocket said...

don't go. they don't deserve you.

Laura Lee said...

not ironic, dear. it's because it holds so much beauty that its potential for sadness exists. only your detachment would release you.

big hugs. I have the same relationship with certain places. I just acknowledge my emotions about it at the time, and then go elsewhere. more hugs. it's ok if we aren't buddha about EVERY damn thing.