So I’m at this recursive stage of life, where my past begins to assume a totemic importance. And…Facebook.
I have hated Facebook since the day it became publicly available. I joined only because I wanted to see what my kids were up to. I never posted, never commented, never engaged unless pressed.
When I was growing up, my hometown was this tiny little spread of houses by a railroad track, 35 miles inland from the coast, with a nylon manufacturing plant and a golf course and a public school system that contained a kindergarten, two elementary schools, a junior high and a high school. Everyone really did know everyone else.
Looking at the lives my classmates have led since we graduated high school (and so very many of us could not wait to get out of that tiny town, to go somewhere – anywhere – else), a lot of bitterness has eased. So many of us went out and tried to do big, brave things. Not all of us succeeded in living the way we set out to live, but for the most part we are pretty happy with the way we’ve managed to shape our lives. With a larger world, the competition amongst us has diminished. We lived in this very small, very close-minded town, and we were all in our own way struggling to either strike back at its close-mindedness.
The town is a better place now. I go back to visit my mom sometimes – the people are kinder, the kids seem like they have more options. My former classmates – the ones that stayed – helped make the town a better place; those that left have done the same for other towns and cities. And those of us who encounter one another on Facebook are kind to each other. Perhaps it’s the safety of distance – both miles and time. But there’s a grim understanding among many of us that it was hard. That we were growing, shadow-boxing with our better and worse angels, in a suffocating bell jar of a town. That we can forgive – not just others, because that’s easy in many cases…but that we can also forgive ourselves.