I’m sitting on a rock facing the high school lacrosse field. The field that Hannah and Luke will most likely start to play on in 9 years. The field that I once played on when I was in high school (although I played AGAINST this team, not FOR it). The varsity girls and boys teams are practicing before me. The freshman are sitting on the bleachers watching. Looking awkward and too small for their protective pads and uniforms. Some other girls wearing a face full of makeup and shorts that barely cover their tushes, are sitting directly in front of me whispering and pointing at the obviously cool lacrosse guys doing their thing. Even MY heart skipped a beat when one of them came up to the fence to say hi to the girls. His shaggy hair covering his forehead and some of his blue eyes. His confident smile and quick wave as he walked away. There’s one girl sitting alone reading a book under a tree , a pair of track shoes at her side, who glances up every once in a while to look at the group of girls in front of me. Her eyes rest on them for a few seconds at a time before they return to the pages of her book.
I am soaking it all in. A mix of emotions flow through me. I so loved this time of year in high school. The smell of spring. The sunlight extending past dinner time. The warmer air hitting my skin as I escaped the confines of the school walls to hit the field or the tennis court. The bond I felt with my team mates. The thrill of scoring goals, winning a game, getting noticed for something I was good at.
I also feel excitement and nervous anticipation as I look at the girls around me. The ones that Hannah will sooner than I’d like to admit, become. Will she stand with her lacrosse stick with her group of similar looking friends? Will she be sitting alone under the tree with her running sneakers at her side? Will she be coyly flirting with the lacrosse players, wearing clothes I don’t approve of? Will she be in the school auditorium auditioning for a play? These girls only “minutes” ago were riding their bikes with training wheels on their driveways. Their moms looked at them and thought to themselves… I wonder what they’ll be like in high school. And now there they are. And here I am.
Along with my nostalgic glee and curiosity watching these teenagers, I’m also sitting here remembering my tougher days of high school. The days I felt on the outside of the “in” crowd. The days I knew I was dissappointing my parents academically. The days that I often maybe incorrectly felt my close friends were closer to each other than to me. The days I just wanted “him” to notice me, but didn’t. The days I appeared on the outside to have it all together but on the inside wasn’t happy.
I’m staring a lot at these kids right now. Trying to bore a hole into their heads to see how and what they’re feeling. (I’m so happy Tim isn’t with me … he’s not a fan of my staring tendancies). Some of them appear at first glance so confident and self assured. But the more I watch them, the more I see their shifty glances and awkward laughs. One of the girls is obviously being excluded and is trying to get attention by talking louder and throwing out “What the fuck” and “Totally Bullshit” to gain some street cred. I’m wondering where the girl under the tree fits in. She seems so relaxed. At ease. Fine with her time alone. But it’s possible she’s wishing to be a part of the crowd in front of her. She could even just be pretending to read while really listening and staring, just as I am.
I want to grab all of these kids and pull them close to me. To yell, “ENJOY THIS! Love these days. Be happy in these days. APPRECIATE these days.” But for them, these are some tough days. Trying to figure out who they are and who they want to become. Trying to understand where they fit in. Where they DO fit in vs. where they WANT to fit in which sadly is often not the same place. And so many of these kids don’t feel they have anyone to give them direction. Their parents will tell them to “be themselves”. That they’ll be happiest if they are just “themselves”. But what 16 year old knows who THEY are?
I just want to tell these kids to feel proud of themselves. What they are going through at 16 is not easy and they should be so proud. I wish I was prouder of myself back then. I should have been proud of how well I did in school (which was just Fine). Proud of my fantastic, smart, sensible group of friends. Proud of excelling at most sports. That pride would have done great things for me, I’m sure of it.
I’m sitting here, on this rock, watching these kids like I was here yesterday. My hair in a ponytail, field hockey stick in hand, mouth guard in my mouth, running with all my might down the field to score a goal. I have a smile on my face as I sit here remembering but I’m also feeling a tug of sadness. Maybe I’m missing these carefree days. Maybe I’m wallowing in the fact that I really didn’t appreciate the “ease” of those days more. Maybe I’m realizing that I didn’t appreciate the happiness that I felt in those days. Because the tough days often overshadowed the happy ones.
Will I look back in another 20 years and think the same? Will I look at a mom with a little five year old as I’m watching Hannah and Luke on the high school field and want to grab her and say, “Enjoy This!”?
Something tells me I will. And that’s fine, as long as I make a point, starting TODAY to enjoy it too…
Because I know that day will feel like yesterday too.