We all have stories to tell about special events that become milestones in our lives and worthy of sharing. We find affiliation with others when we share these experiences as they give us perspectives that might not otherwise be considered. I imagine there are stories that we would rather not like to share due to the growing pains we have all encountered in our lives, but I think sharing stories even if they are awkward can possibly help others. I learn from others experiences, and maybe others can learn from mine. We find compelling stories in movies, magazines, t.v. shows, and other media all the time. For me, I have a fond memory of my first slow dance. It encompasses a little background, to understand the motives and times of the event that depicts a more vivid chronicle for the reading audience.
As a child growing up I was shy and quiet and that disposition also carried over into some of my teenage years. In the spectrum of self-esteem I scored more on a lower scale of self-acceptance as opposed to a higher scale back in those days. Thinking about what I now know, I would have to say that many of my peers were probably suffering from a similar self-doubt, although they just showed it in dramatically different ways. The braggart’s and bullies of my time were just trying to over-compensate for their self-doubt, or in the case of the bullies; they probably encountered some form of domestic violence in the home. I imagine that those prone to be bullies may be correlated with either a type 8 or a type 6 disposition for enneagram candidates (See Rizo/Hudson http://www.enneagraminstitute.com).
During that early period in my life, I like many others have struggled with self-doubt as shown by the attributing anxieties of the world around us: Family life, Friends and other Social Support Groups, Maturation, and so forth. Most noticeable were the kids around me during those times since that was the environment most recognizable and most important. There was much angst among many of the other kids I had to occasionally run into. Overall the years were fairly tame compared to some stories that you hear about in other schools that make the papers and news-casts, nevertheless, we had a few individuals that seemed to make everyone’s recollection of those years a little more apparent. The bullies, the athletic jocks, the stoner’s, the social’s, the privileged (ones with money), and the less fortunate (with lower incomes) were all represented as in most schools.
Specifically in Junior High School or now called middle school, the demography changed one year when they started shipping some kids from another school in Murphy Canyon over to my school. I believe it had something to do with budgetary cuts, but the effect was dramatic as additional groupings of youths were competing for attention. Not only did the enrollment of kids go way up, as did class sizes, but also many of these kids were from military backgrounds and may have been displaced on prior assignments for their families. The effect of moving from school to school often does not have positive results for some kids. The landscape changed during this year, as the new mixture of kids had to make a name for themselves. I’m really not sure where I fit into the scheme of things as I look back but I just wanted to fit in as did many others. My friends were few and far between and I somehow managed to get around through-out all the networks of people not necessarily belonging to any one particular group.
The one thing a teenager does not forget about are the memories of their classmates that you liked during those years. I have some fond memories since they are the first people we develop feelings for during these very formidable years of our lives. I had crushes on some of the girls in my elementary school days I must admit, but in this case the return of those feelings is much more likely to happen. It’s funny how things arise, especially when you have no idea that anything will develop. The time when you discover that you actually like someone, and the feelings that surge up within you when you think about them, or are next to them is an awkward experience for someone who has no idea of how to proceed in establishing a more meaningful relationship. The skill in dealing with those feelings is a whole different topic but for the sake of this post, let me just say that I did not learn those skills until later episodes of my social development.
In the Eighth grade I was invited to a house party by one of the girls in my classes. I was pleasantly surprised since I did not get many requests for that kind of social activity, especially from someone who lived on the other side of town. Her family seemed to be well off, since to me she lived in an upscale neighborhood which I had never seen before until I went to her house. I was amazed at the neighborhood she lived in, how big her parents house was, and I did not realize just how much of a contrast our lifestyles must have been until that party. She invited many of her classmates and the party was very eye-opening for me. I had not gone to many house parties like this before. It allowed me to see how other kids lived, what they participated in away from our school activities. At that age I did not get around much in the social circles. My only outlets were either my neighborhood friends, or my participation in sporting events; baseball, football, basketball, swimming.
Her parents chaperoned, and the party was not unlike many other teenage middle school parties. We ate, laughed and danced with our fellow school mates for the length of the party. I believe that I knew most of them by association since the kids in the party went to my school. I don’t think I was particularly well-known to many of them as I was still shy, and probably did not make myself available as I probably should have during the course of the party, but when the music began and the atmosphere changed within that huge family room, I can surely recall a memorable night in my life; my first slow dance with someone I really liked.
At the age of 14 I achieved a milestone in my life where I was socializing with other kids my age and dancing to the current hits of 1977. Songs like Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s the Night, Stephen Bishop’s On and On, James Taylor’s Handy Man, Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, ABBA’s Dancing Queen, and some of the Disco hits popular during that time. For me the best song of the night that still remains with me to this day is the memory of when they played Johnny River’s Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing). That was when I had my first slow dance with a girl I liked. I’m a little vague on how it came about, either I had the courage to ask her, or we were already dancing to a prior faster song and just continued to dance when they slowed it up, or she asked me when they put it on. Regardless, I am happy the ends justified the means. The lights were low, the atmosphere was cozy, and I became lost in the dance holding a person close to me that I had cared for.
Every time I hear that song, I think of her and those times. I can recall some flash-back memories that bring me back to those nostalgic years and think of the way we talked, danced, and carried on as teenagers. I am regretful that I did not pursue the relationship further. It is one of my “what if” moments I sometimes ask myself when I think back to those days. The truth is that my shyness prevented me from showing my true feelings to this girl, even though I think she knew how I felt. Of course later on it did not help that I had no means of transport, drivers license, or job during those years.
We did eventually go out a few times later in the following years, but never really made it more than just friends. I will always have a special place in my heart for her, as my feelings for her were first discovered when I was in the seventh grade and carried on through high school. I simply did not have the courage to pursue a relationship that challenged my transportation deficiencies, my social skill limitations, and my overall self-esteem evaluation.
It was not until moving away from home when I was 17, two weeks before we graduated from High School, supporting myself and financing my own way through college that I overcame much of those earlier deficits.
Personal change, growth, development, identity formation–these tasks that once were thought to belong to childhood and adolescence alone now are recognized as part of adult life as well. Gone is the belief that adulthood is, or ought to be, a time of internal peace and comfort, that growing pains belong only to the young; gone the belief that these are marker events–a job, a mate, a child–through which we will pass into a life of relative ease.