Yearbooks: A lasting impression

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Seventh grade was the start of asking as many people as possible to sign my yearbook. I don’t know what prompted it because it had never been a thing before. But I asked friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, people I barely knew, people who rode the same bus as me. I knew a lot of people’s names but that doesn’t mean I knew them well or they had any idea of who I was.

It wasn’t a popularity contest of trying to get the most signatures or messages. That may be hard to believe because in high school especially I had people writing over ads and I even taped in blank sheets of paper just to create space. I brought my tenth grade yearbook with me to Governor’s School and asked as many people as I could to sign it. I received quite a number of weird looks from people as they reluctantly wrote something down.

But it was never a popularity contest. It was deeper than that. I was trying to cobble together some sense of what people thought of me. What was their impression? How am I actually viewed?

Looking back, what was ingrained in my mind was mostly cliched, generic comments like “We had two classes together. I hope we have more next year” or “raise hell this summer, good luck next year” (usually written in shorthand: RHTS, GLNY). There were also plenty of references of “I’m going to miss you, stay in touch.” Some people actually included an email address or phone number. But these were received with a grain of salt. It’s what you write when you don’t know what else to say.

Yearbooks are a natural time capsule. Obviously. Everyone is smiling and having a good time in pictures, but not everyone is happy.

In high school I received a lot of yearbook comments like “You’re so sweet. Don’t ever change.” I was so insecure and depressed, that I couldn’t see this as a sincere comment. I immediately wrote it off as someone trying to be nice. Mostly these comments were met with an eye roll and made me think of how I acted outside of school. When I was no longer around them. I thought “yeah I’m considered sweet in school because I’m quiet but they don’t see me after basketball practice when Mom picks me up and I totally blow up in her face because she simply asked how my day was and I turned into a monster. I’m not a nice person.” (Another reminder of those feelings of being Two-Faced.)

I didn’t realize then like I do now how draining it was to maintain a public persona of trying to be happy, trying to show I wasn’t struggling, that lots of sensory things annoyed and bothered me. I bottled it up until I was safely in the car. There was no pressure valve in high school, so it continued to build up inside until the first sign of safety and I allowed myself to show emotion. And Mom got the full force of that. And much like when I was younger, she was eager to hear about my day without realizing I needed the space. So, no, I didn’t consider myself a sweet person. I was a cheerleader for others but unreasonably pessimistic for myself, and that negativity is how I defined myself.

Yet I kept asking for people to sign and I kept looking for comments that seemed irrefutable, that even I couldn’t twist around and deny. My depression twisted so many things in my head about my worth, my value, my contributions.

General statements tend to translate to absolutes. If you can find one moment that negates the statement, then the depression can convince you that the whole thing is flawed and must be written off as wrong.

I kept looking for something concrete, something that was straight up fact about what kind of person I am that even I couldn’t refute it.

And I got it by catching someone at the end of class before the bell rang. She didn’t have much time to think about what to write so it seemed like a fair evaluation. What she wrote really made me stop. I pride myself on having a good memory but she plucked a detail from the previous year that I had written off as insignificant.

You are great! Always standing tall (no pun intended) with a ready smile for anyone! One thing I’ll never forget about you is your willingness to help other people. I remember in freshman year you taught me a bit about basketball when I was just about the worst player on the court — thanks. Have a fantastic summer! ❤ Julia

As a freshman, Julia had decided to try out for the basketball team. It was obvious she had little to no experience playing the game, but she gave it a chance anyway. I forget how long tryouts lasted, but it was at least two days of effort. She might have even come to some conditioning sessions before official tryouts. Anyway, there was a moment when Julia and I got paired together for some shooting drills. She was inexperienced and also among the shortest of those there. I knew what it was like to not know what to do, so I tried to share some of the insight I had learned through various summer camps about how to hold the ball, finger placement and shooting technique. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. It’s something you do.

But I realize I did have choices. I could have mocked her for her lack of skills, question her interest in trying out. I could have made every effort possible to make her seem even more ridiculous for being there. These were tryouts, after all. If I had been at a public school, it would have been more cutthroat, especially if we were going for the same position. But I didn’t. I took some time to help her out in a small way, and that’s what she remembered. That’s what stuck for her.

Wow.

When you have an established view of yourself, if something is presented that contradicts that view, you write it off. It’s considered a fluke. The alternative means considering that your view is wrong, and that doesn’t sit well. It’s easier to dismiss something than to allow the conflicting thoughts to battle out. Depression doesn’t want that struggle. It wants to continue to suffocate and suppress.

I’ve wanted to write this yearbook post for a while now. It was among a number of ideas that came to mind when brainstorming topics I would cover on the blog. I knew I would write it. But if I had written it a few months ago, it wouldn’t have had the same impact on me as it does now.

I’m seeing so much more in myself that I never recognized before. So many things people have told me again and again over the years, yet I couldn’t see. There are so many things that seem clear and obvious now, I wonder how I missed it. The depression blocked it out and twisted my perception of things. But I’m grateful for those who could see it and were not afraid to point it out to me. I have those thoughts and messages to reflect on now and to treasure.

This weekend I went back through my junior yearbook. These are some of the comments I have. I got a total of 80 people to sign it. The repetition from so many is undeniable; it can’t be a fluke.

From my 11th grade English teacher 
Your work ethic and will to win is apparent both in the classroom and on the court. It is a pleasure to watch you play and a challenge to teach you. Never compromise your principles! Good luck in all you do!

From a classmate I was jealous of. She seemed smarter than me, more popular, more at ease in so many ways.
I’m so glad we met. AP European with Mr. Bingham has been great. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. You are such a sweet girl and are so smart. The poem you wrote that was in the newsletter was so good! You are so talented and so smart. Good luck next year. AP English is gonna be fun!

From a teammate
You’re such a great friend and so talented! You have so much going for you! Keep up the good work in bball! *smile*

From a classmate
… don’t ever change. You are one of the sweetest people I know!

From a senior boy I had a crush on, who I sat next to during art class and I felt insecure around because he had much better drawing skills
This year flew by! You are so sweet and I’ll miss you next year. KIT (Keep in touch) next year. I’ll be at Franciscan.

From a senior girl who I apparently emailed regularly during high school
Ever since your freshman year I have thought you are wonderful. You are. I know that you will go far in whatever you do. Keep up your writing and bball, you are extremely gifted. Keep sending those emails. Stay in touch. I love hearing of all your successes. Good luck in all you do.

From a girl I didn’t know very well
Lindsay, you’re great. Never change. You know who you are. I admire you.

From a sophomore girl I’d met through the literary magazine, a fellow poet. I was jealous of her writing skills
It’s too bad we didn’t have any classes together this year. We had so much fun in geometry last year. Maybe next year … now, on a serious note. You are a very intelligent, nice, talented and genuine person. I admire you a lot! Have a great summer — I’ll see yah next year!

From a senior teammate
You are truly a ray of sunshine in a dark world. Thanks for all the hugs and support. Keep a positive attitude always! (My one piece of worthy advice). Please keep up the basketball, it’s so much fun. Enjoy it while it lasts. Stay sweet and be happy.

From a girl from my hometown
I wish we had had a class together but at least we got to ride the bus, what fun. You are so sweet. I hope you never change!

From a junior girl
… you are such a nice girl and you’ve got a lot of talent (bball and writing!) Don’t forget that and don’t let anyone tell you differently. …

From a senior girl, the one I began parking next to when I got my license at the end of the year. 
Wow this year has really gone by fast. Your cockeyed parking jobs are an endless source of amusement for me! But seriously you are so sweet and pretty and you make me feel tres short! J/k. Prom was fun. I liked dancing that silly cha-cha thingy with you. Keep in touch. I’ll miss you.

From a sophomore boy who helped with scorekeeping for basketball games. We apparently talked more frequently the previous year.
The year went by too fast. We never had a chance to talk (with the exception of basketball). Keep up your writing. It looks like you have a lot of potential. Have a great summer.

From a senior teammate
Wow I can’t believe we’re done! I will miss you so much next year. Your witty comments during bball were much comic relief. I appreciate that. Have fun next year and remember how good you are (at bball, writing and at being a friend).

From Mr. Kremin
The bee knows the flower because of its beauty, is drawn to it, garners the honey. So will the world know you and draw from your honeyed words.

From the supportive and influential freshman English teacher
It has been such a pleasure having you as a friend. I have really enjoyed reading your work. I’m convinced that one day I’ll be able to tell my students that “I taught you” when we’re reading your poetry from our textbook. Even though I don’t have you in class anymore, you have been a constant reminder of why I became a teacher! English 101: Favorite Destination! If only everyone felt that way! Have a wonderful summer! Keep sending me your work via email so we can keep in contact! I look forward to working with you for one more year on Lit. Mag.

From the youth minister
Lindsay, I didn’t know you at all 9 months ago, and now I feel like we are really good friends. I feel like I’ve found a part of you I didn’t even know existed. I have so much respect for you, how you pushed yourself at the retreat and how you’ve opened up. I love the poems you write and look forward to your first published book.

“Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31

If I could tell high school Lindsay something it would be: Be kinder to yourself. You’re worth more and have more to offer than you can imagine.

Coming up next: The English 101 poem.

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6 thoughts on “Yearbooks: A lasting impression”

  1. Lindsay, your writing amazes me because you are so unflinchingly honest with yourself. You make me try harder to be like you. I do love you!

    Like

  2. Those are some lovely notes. Like we talked about already, if only we could have glimpsed through our 30-year-old eyes for even a minute back then, how different things could’ve been as far as our perception of ourselves goes.

    Like

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