Karen M. Winkelman

The LifeCrafting Guide

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by Karen Winkelman Friday, August 30, 2019

contemplations on relationships and high schoolOn the morning of the 1-year anniversary of my mother’s passing, I felt heavy with sadness.

A perfectly normal occurrence in the grieving process.

And then I tapped into it.

Leaned in deeply to see what awareness it held for me.

It surprised me to discover the loss wasn’t as much about my mom, but all the relationships that I’ve lost, for countless reasons, over the years.

Not all were a genuine loss mind you, but people who were no longer in my life, for whatever reason, yet there was still something left for me to understand, accept or forgive, before I could completely let them go and be at peace about it.

So, since that deep dive in the ocean of lost loves, friendships and other relationships on June 18th,

I’ve been exploring and questioning relationships of all kinds and processing the wild array of bittersweet emotions and feelings each contained, including confusion, regret and relief.

Maybe a touch of anger here and there, which was more directed inward, at me and choices I made and conclusions I formed.

Since my relationships, past and present, are clearly a theme this summer, it was no surprise that High School and childhood relationships would enter the arena.

And that triggered a cascade of emotions and feelings that I thought were handled a long, long time ago.

Apparently not so much.

My 50th HS reunion is coming up; actually it’s a year early… combined with the class of ‘69. Odd.

Maybe they need to guarantee more people showing up.

My initial thought is why combine with another class and prematurely force me to deal with a 50th HS reunion.

My friend wants to know if I’m coming.

I want to know why I would even consider it. (Which I did for a nano-second.)

This isn’t me being contentious; it’s me being honest with myself. No judgement on my former classmates intended.

Why would I want to go?

I don’t have many wonderful memories about HS. Others may steep in nostalgia of their High School days (or grade school or college).

Me, I don’t have the same warm fuzzies about it.


Looking at the posts in the Facebook reunion group it feels like I went to a different school, or same school different dimension. Former classmates share pictures and reminisce over times gone by. Maybe for some those were their golden years, or maybe they just had a damn good time.

Maybe they knew each other better than I knew them.

When I look at the pictures they post, only a few faces seem familiar. Most of the names are even less familiar. Without the aid of my senior yearbook, I wouldn’t know who half these people are.

Maybe they were friends with each other in High School.

Maybe they were actual friends who did things together after school and over vacations.

Maybe they all lived nearby or attended the same churches and Synagogues.

And maybe none of that is true.


What I do know is, only a handful of my High School friends were a in my life outside of school, and for brief periods of time.

For the most part, I wasn’t invited to their parties or into their life outside of school.

And in a couple of memorable instances, tossed out of their house by a parent who thought I was a bad influence on their precious kid.

Which hurt me deeply, but I hid with a smart ass remark or two.


A group of theatre people I met at the church basement amateur theatre became my surrogate family, my band of misfits.

We put on plays together and became fast friends. They lived on the border of another town, but thankfully one of them had a car, otherwise I would bicycle across town to meet up with them.


Don’t get me wrong. I did have friends in High School.

There were a few people I enjoyed talking with and hanging out with at school. Most were either from the theatre club or chorus. We shared good times, laughs and camaraderie.

They live on as part of my High School Highlight Reel.

Other people intrigued me, piquing my curiosity, and I wanted to get to know them better.

Though I’m not sure I knew how to nurture or build lasting friendships in school. (Does anyone?)

There were also a couple of teachers I adored.

Of course there were romantic relationships with boys… although I use the term romantic rather loosely here.

Very little romance was ever involved!

Heavy breathing, hushed phone conversations, giggles, roving hands, locked lips, and a dash or two ot teen angst were often involved.

Some romances were sweet while they lasted, most were weird, awkward and short-lived.


One of my core emotional issues was feeling loved and accepted (I was strange even to my family.)

In my teens, this led me to make monumentally poor choices in my dealings with people, especially the opposite sex.

I misidentified attention and physical affection for genuine caring, liking, and actual interest in me as a person.

(That particular lesson took me well into my 30s to learn.)

It prompted a lifelong journey into self-love and self-acceptance.

When I was 16, I was raped by a boy who said he was my friend.

He took it lightly.  

I took it to heart.

Shouldered the responsibility and made it My Fault.

The experience changed me.

I turned the anger and blame inward, along with the shame and humiliation.

It was like something snapped inside and I didn’t care what happened to me anymore. (I’ve worked through all that, thank God, but it took years.)

Note: The self-love journey has treacherous patches!

The self-love journey has treacherous patches!

Back then, I lived in a neighborhood on the border of a different school district. Aside from one close friend, there were a couple of neighborhood friends that were not friends in High School.

They were into sports.

I was into theatre and science.

I was not part of the in-crowd.

A nerd, a geek, an artist and actor,

I was fringe element.

A hippie, rebel, angry, introvert...

trying to fit in somewhere,

find acceptance

and understand myself

and why I made the choices I made.

And then there’s the whole unspoken pressure of maintaining masks to hide the metaphysical side of me.


So why would I want to go to a High School reunion with people I don’t really know and who certainly don’t know me?

A presentation in contrast:

I would quietly observe from the sidelines,

or do something outrageous to annoy the authority figures at school, or just for the fun of it, to see what would happen.

A lifelong edge walker and frequent risk-taker,

bold and irreverent, yet fragile and vulnerable,

I didn’t know how to relate to 99 percent of the people in school

and I’m pretty sure they didn’t know what to make of me.

(again, I could be wrong here)

I frustrated the fuck out of some of my teachers who saw a spark of brilliance they wanted to cultivate, but 

I was too defiant to allow them or their words to help me.


So while I see all these fond memories in the High School Facebook feed, I sigh because I still feel on the outside looking in.

Do I have any fond memories to share?

A few.

Mostly moments on stage, like the standing ovation I received in The Crucible.

(My mom came up to me after the show and said “You were really good. You made me cry.”

I think this might be one of the best compliments I ever received, because crying is not a thing my mom did.)

Another was writing a novelette to pass my English class because I didn’t turn in most (if any) assignments that season. I rolled the dice on that great writing challenge and won.

And I took smug pleasure in writing passes to get out of class (especially if there was a substitute teacher) to attend non-existent chorus or theatre rehearsals. I’d skip class and hang out in the courtyard, or slip out of the building and cross the street to the recreation center or walk into town.

Those memories still make me smile.

A couple also rate a “what was I thinking?” head shake.


Indeed I had enjoyable, crazy, and extraordinary moments in High School.

They are etheric snapshots in my metaphysical album, fading a little at the edges over time.

And I met a few people who touched my heart and made a difference in my life. I send them my love and gratitude.


But… did I have a great time in High School?


Although I believe it was better than Junior High (a lot better!), I don’t remember it being fun.

I remember it being awkward, frustrating, lonely, and heartbreaking.

But then again, memories lie.


Yes, I had friendly relationships with a number of people, but real friends? I think I was afraid to reveal myself. Often when I did, it would scare people.

If you need to be liked, you don’t want to scare people away!

I liked a number of people back then, but liking someone and becoming friends with them requires a level of vulnerability and trust.

When I opened my heart to someone and they hurt or rejected me, I was devastated.


It took me decades to understand that school friends and work friends are a different species than actual friends.

If you are only friends in a specific setting, location or space in time, you are not real friends.

A least by my definition.

To me, a real friend is someone who can see you and accept you in all your quirky glory.

There is a depth to the relationship.

Real friends are someone you can let your guard down with, be yourself around, and share yourself with.

You like each other and accept each other “as is.”

Friendship involves mutual respect and trust.

You have a comfortable feeling around them, enjoy their company, and they enrich your life by being in it.


It baffled me when school and work friends didn’t carry over into my day-to-day existence.

I felt hurt, disappointed and confused.

Why weren’t they still a part of my life?

What was wrong with me?

I suppose it’s similar to feeling defective, dejected or rejected when no one choses you to be on a team or to dance at the high school hop.

The feeling of sitting on the sidelines unwanted, while the other kids are chosen, still clenches my gut.


As I grow older I understand more about the reason-season-lifetime meme of relationships.

Each serves a purpose.


Friends and relationships enter our life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Each are unigue like snoflakes

I recognize friendships come in an assortment of levels, from close to casual.

Yet, while I understand it now and accept the transitory nature of situational friendships,

the void left in their wake still trips me up when we part.



Bottom line...

The only relationship that is paramount

is the one you have with yourself.

All other relationships take cues from this.

Learn to develop a supportive, kind and loving relationship with yourself. Others will follow suit, or fall by the wayside.


with love, and appreciation for you,

PS. I'd love to hear your thoughts on relationships, friendships and High School... you can share in the comments area below!

If you'd like some support in understanding your own relationships, feeling like you don’t fit in, or allowing yourself to be fully YOU, I'd love to work with you if we're a fit. You can contact me here

Posted by Karen Winkelman on Friday, August 30, 2019 12:00 AM
Categories: Self-Acceptance, Self-Care, Self-Awareness, Empowerment
Tags: (No Tags)
1 Comment
On Monday, December 21, 2020 at 6:49 PM
Ariel Ky said...
"My 50th high school reunion is next year, and I have mixed feelings about going. Who knows, with Covid? But they are still planning it for next fall, and to tell the truth, I had a rough time in high school, too. Although at times I was popular, it was always kind of a roller coaster ride. I'm so sorry that you were raped. So young to have that happen. I do remember hot and heavy kissing sessions that I never let go anywhere, but I loved kissing! I was an A student, on the honor roll, and I loved my classes and all of my teachers. There are none of them around any more, I don't think. My brother was in the same grade with me. He died when he was 18, murdered over dealing drugs. Nobody from high school knew what to say to me, so they didn't say anything. My parents broke off a deep relationship I had with my boyfriend senior year because they thought it was getting too serious. I went off the deep end and had mental problems. Another reason that high school friends stopped having anything to do with me. I'm still friends, though, with three of my best friends from the neighborhood where I grew up. None of them attended my school, but we rode the bus into town together. Five years ago, a friend of my brothers organized a class reunion and set up a private Facebook page for it. So... "

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