C.S. Lewis on the beginning of friendship:
“What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Humans have a need for community. Church. Book club. Bowling club, whatever. In big cities and impersonal suburbs, in recent decades we live more isolated lives. Our children grow up and move away. Some of us live in gated communities. C-19 has made this even worse. A group of friends from Berkeley High, class of 1957 (plus a few more) have started having weekly Zoom meetings. There is an openness and sharing that surprised us. Many of us didn’t know each other in high school. Or, at best, we knew who others were, but only from a distance.
Social cliques, economics, and racial barriers kept us from knowing each other. Pile on top of that adolescent insecurities, and there were a lot of barriers to getting to know people different from me.
Our class has been fortunate to have a strong reunion committee. We’ve managed to stay in touch. Things are pressing in on us, though. Covid. Retirement and health issues. All of us being 80-ish. Along comes Zoom. We’ve started having weekly meetings. First an hour, then 90 minutes, now around two hours. We really seem to want to hear each others’ stories. I’ve been thrilled to see how trusting and open we are being with each other. So, I asked people to share what they get out of these meetings. Here as some excerpts:
It’s as if I’ve followed Alice down the rabbit hole to get to know the people I didn’t know in high school and come back out having known them all my life. It is a spiritual experience.
The common thread is that we each thought that we were the only ones with growing pains and emotional problems.
Each of us is different in so many ways. Why would we develop friendships? Classmates are willing to share their journey and I love hearing about their experiences… the stories enrich my life. It almost seems like our differences are bringing us closer together.
A wise man once told me, regarding a support group I was joining, that even after I thought I had heard it all, there would always be some small thing in any meeting that would be useful to me, and these small things added up, over time, to positive and meaningful changes in my life. I get that vibe from this group.
A common theme is how many of us felt we were different than others in our high school. I never realized until now that that was an issue for many of us. We weren’t encouraged to speak our truth. I didn’t know what my truth was. I was shy and had low self-esteem. We can grow and change at any time in our life. And I’m happy I can keep doing so in my 80s.
With this Zoom group, we have people who are talking about their lives. The people in our BHS group have a varied and always interesting story to tell about their struggles and successes.
In my angry and turgid state of mind from age 13 thru 18, I had little interaction of any helpful consequence with most of our classmates. Now a bit older, I appreciate how much good stuff I missed as we share or listen to other experiences by our BHS ‘57 mates. I’m very grateful for all that.
The group discussions have helped me reaffirm how lucky I was to grow up in Berkeley in the 40’s and 50’s. Our zoom discussions are helpful to trigger memories of the experiences I had. Our connections with our childhoods in Berkeley are good things to keep with us.
In high school I was too busy trying to survive the chaotic, confused world I knew at home, while struggling to find a way to fit into the BHS environment.Yet, we all had to search, create, construct our own uniqueness.
Our life stories illuminate the paths that continue to lead us through our unique journey of living. In high school were we not butterflies molten into a chrysalis, a hard exoskeleton protecting the developing butterfly beneath? How gratifying these meet-ups are, for now we have a chance to fulfill our curiosity of seeing the size, shape, color of the butterflies that emerged.
Wow. I am so grateful to be a part of this unique group. Somehow, we discovered that we continue to grow… even in our 80s! Zoom makes this possible. Hooray for technology.