Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Ahead to the Past

They found me. I knew it would happen; it was only a matter of time.

I’ve been “friended” by high school classmates on Facebook!

It’s funny, but I feel kinda strange about this. Unsettled. It’s a “Rafikki” thing I guess, you know, “it’s in the past”. I’m a little surprised, neither in a good way nor a bad, and I’m a little surprised that I am surprised. I shouldn’t be, though, because Beth has had a wonderful time being rediscovered by her high school friends, and a couple of my college buddies have surfaced on other social media sites like Linked-in. The question now before me is “what now?”

I attended two high schools back in the day, Southbridge High in Massachusetts, and Lincoln High in Rhode Island. My family moved after my freshman year in high school and I graduated in a class of kids with whom I had not grown up. Lincoln High was a happy place for me, and some of the years in Southbridge were equally so. I confess to being curious about the fates of some of my childhood crowd. Actually, I’ve been very curious for quite a few years. It’s actually odd to say that out loud since I’m the guy who keeps writing about not looking back for fear of opening the door to regret. And yet, the curiosity remains.

What to do? It was always so difficult, the task so daunting to track down the players from the past that I could set aside my curiosity quite easily. Who has the time? There’s so much on my plate that I have to take care of. How can I justify the effort? Stuff like that. My father-in-law tracked down all of the members of his Navy Band in order to organize a tribute concert for his retiring Navy Chief. This was about 8 years ago, and he did it by painstakingly searching for his mates on the internet of the time, coupling his search with some rather ingenious detective work on the phone (you don’t want to know!). Bob was retired and the massive time element involved was actually a bonus for him–he needed something to fill his day, he was determined, and he enjoyed the process. Every time I was ever curious about my past the memory of his efforts cured me of any notion that I might do the same.

If Bob did the same thing now he would simply search for his buddies on Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter and the like. In all likelihood he would be one or two degrees of internet separation from everyone on his list. Very efficiently and quickly the task would be complete, which would not have been nearly as satisfying for Bob, I think, but knowing that makes my question a little harder to set aside. What now, now that it would be so much easier to explore the past?

As much as I profess to avoid looking back I DO think of certain people and certain events from my childhood. I grew up in a rather tough mill town, a town that was already dying a slow death, although no one knew it at the time. We were all pretty much the same in those days; the financial gulf between management and line had not yet developed, and white color workers were really more very light blue than really white. If you lived in a house it was small, and your neighborhood was right next door to the town’s apartments and duplexes. We were all foul-mouthed punks, the college-track kids indistinguishable except by classroom number from those kids who would never see a college campus in their lifetimes. The “good kids” different from the “bad kids” only in that they never got caught. What happened to the guys I called my friends back then, the guys I ran with for 14 years until a massive fight severed the ties? Did Neil go to law school? Is Tommy a fabulously wealthy dotcom guy or financial wizard? How about Timmy, my oldest friend, 3 of 4 older brothers dead before 40 from heart attacks? Is Timmy still alive?

You read all kinds of “bad ending” stories about people who went and found old boyfriends or girlfriends on social networking sites. Kinda scary, really. My “girl next door” and I have connected on all of these sites (Hi Maureen!), but our folks still live next door and we’ve never really been UNconnected over the years. I don’t really have all that much curiosity about the girls I dated in the past. To be honest, I was a lousy boyfriend to pretty much all of them, and any re-connection would be more like that movie about the guy who traveled around to make amends with past loves, or the other one about the guy who was haunted by past girlfriends. Not a lot of upside to that particular search. But as in all things there are exceptions and here it’s no different. I AM curious about one girl, a girl who was my closest friend in Southbridge as well as my first love. She was dealt a couple of jokers after I moved, yet she played every hand with dignity and grace. How is she doing now?

As I think about it while I’m writing it’s really about the curiosity more than the connecting, at least for me. I’m still not really interested in visiting or re-connecting with my past, I’m just curious about what’s been going on since I stepped off of the pages of that particular story. I don’t need the view that’s available to me 30 inches away on my screen through Facebook; the view from 3,000 feet, or even 30,000 feet would be plenty. Call me a coward, call me callous, call me the same self-centered SOB I might very well have been back then, but I still can’t see myself reaching out now in order to connect. Perhaps I’ll take a page out of my father-in-law’s book and just do a little detective work, staying one or two degrees of separation away, a kind of “novelization” of my search if you will. In the end it seems to be just as I have preached to my children these many years: if you don’t go where trouble can happen, it’s harder to get in trouble.

Whether you go back to the future, or ahead to the past.

3 Responses to “Ahead to the Past”

  1. November 28th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Colin Hill says:

    Bingo – Great article.
    It made me think about the two high school reunions that I went to, my 20th and 33rd…both were eventful in the fact that all those that I had idolized or despised actually showed up. It was very interesting to see how people had changed or not changed and it was very interesting to listen to their comments about me..many were,”we can not believe that you are still alive and actually working with troubled youth”. The moment that I liked the most was when the schools most “popular” not so nice beautiful woman actually apologized for the way she treated me in high school…I thought what a beautiful gesture after 33 years of thinking that she was such a nasty person.

    Now we have Facebook and I keep getting invitations to be a “friend” or join a group of individuals from those from my past. I have decided that I am not joining those from my past in reminiscing about days gone by but connecting with the future…that sounds sort of flakey doesn’t it? New situations and challenges interest me more now than being a “friend” on Facebook ( I actually have as my facebook picture “Abdula the Butcher” so it is harder to identify me).

    Thanks for getting me started. Always love your posts.
    Cheers
    Calgary Colin

  2. February 15th, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Chris Lankford says:

    The old saying goes “you can’t go home again”….and personally I would never want to.

    Scenario – A girl I knew as a kid (who treated me horribly in my teen years – as did many of my peers) popped up as a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend on Facebook….I discovered that she had just completed several grueling treatments for the cancer she had been suffering with. I reached out to her to offer words of encouragement, and I wished her well. She responded shortly thereafter thanking me for thinking of her and was confident she would beat the disease…and I hope and believe she will….
    That was it….simple, to the point….going back does not necessarily mean enduring feeble-minded attempts to re-establish…it can just mean caring enough about our own humanity to touch someone, albeit briefly….
    I don’t know about you Dr. White…but I certainly would not want to reach back to Southbridge any deeper than that. The present and future look all too bright for that… ;)

  3. February 15th, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    darrellwhite says:

    Very nice thoughts, Chris. “The present and future look all too bright for that…” I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for dropping by!

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