Reunions Set Us Free

My column from the Albert Lea Tribune August 20, 2018 ©️Julie Seedorf

Julie Seedorf: Let go of perceptions and look beyond words

By Julie Seedorf

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Published 8:30 pm Sunday, August 19, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

By the time you read this, my 50th class reunion will be one for the books. I have learned so much about people since I graduated in the class of 1968 those many years ago. I am a different person than I was then.

I am not so self-centered, although you may disagree with me because we don’t always see ourselves the way others see us. I hurt more because I care more about others. Back then, the hurts were more about wrongs done to us, perceived or otherwise.

I have learned those we thought were stuck-up — yes the term back then — were shy, making it hard for them to put themselves out there for fear of being ridiculed or hurt and it was scary for them to make the first move in a friendship.

I have learned those who were loud and blustery, quick to wound with words to others, were covering insecurity, and that was their way of compensating and trying to feel better about themselves. I suspect they were walled up and hurting inside or were not in touch with what was really behind the name-calling and attacks on others.

I have learned those who kept their sexual orientation secret were miserable in a world where it was not acceptable to be who they were if it differed from society’s opinions of what was right, so the secret stayed hidden, resulting in problems later in life with families and deciding whether life was worth living, some choosing the path to suicide.

I have learned getting the best grades do not make us the smart ones — it just meant that we were good at studying or test-taking. In case you wonder, I wasn’t one of those good studiers, always feeling stupid because my interests were on more creative endeavors.

I have judged the quiet ones, the blustery ones, the ones who I suspected were choosing a different sexual orientation and those who were the smart ones. But, in my old age, I find myself questioning my attitudes and my judgment because I wasn’t necessarily making my own choices when I judged someone. I went along with the crowd, and, yes, at times I was the crowd leader. I wanted to belong.

I am a chatty person so the quiet ones made me nervous, and I felt perhaps they were judging me.

I was scared of those who were loud and blustery and cruel because I didn’t want to be their target, so it was easier to go along with it than to be the one attacked. I remember a boy telling me — and, yes, I still remember this boy’s name because he was a member of a prominent well-to-do family in town — that I was ugly so I knew I didn’t want to cross him. I had lots of friends, boyfriends too, but yet this one time I was targeted sticks with me to this day. I am lucky that is the only time I remember cruelty directed at me, but I am sure there were other times but they weren’t so devastating.

And now because I took the time to know people who are gay and transgender and have asked them deep questions, I am not afraid as I think I was back in the day when I made the judgment. I thought I was making a judgment based on religion, but in reality I was basing judgment on the fear that somehow their lifestyle might affect me or they were a danger to me. I found out years ago those I was friends with and those I loved had kept those secrets. I loved them before I knew their secret. You don’t stop loving and caring about someone when they make choices you aren’t sure about. I took the time to hear their struggle and their hurts, and my judgment went away and so did my fear.

I now understand smart doesn’t always mean the best grades but smart means each person is different and talented in other ways and we need all the gifts each person brings to the table to make this world work. We also need those from all walks of life, rich and poor, different ethnicities to build our lives and make them richer.

I would be lying if I said I don’t judge still today because I do, and it has been difficult trying to walk between the lines of the political rhetoric going on today. Sometimes I attack without thinking in many things when I began to judge. It is a knee-jerk reaction that I fear is human. I don’t always succeed right away in pulling it back and realize what I am doing.

There are some who have never been back to our class reunions, citing hurts from many years ago. I get that. When I am ready to go out that door, I still have a little trepidation that I won’t be accepted and the old feelings come back, but I push through and make an appearance and I have never been sorry in all the reunions over the years I have attended. Time and experiences make people change. If we let go of our perceptions and look beyond the words, we see the years of life in those we spent our early years with. It feels good to reconnect. Maybe it is our perception of us that had to change, finally being secure in who we are and being confident others reactions don’t matter because we are “free to be me.”

A Hot Time Comes To The Old Town This Summer!

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf -Column published in the Albert Lea Tribune, April 28, 2014

Our past, good or bad, shapes our future. This year my community will be celebrating our past as we go forward to the future.

The United South Central School District will open a new school in the fall. The United South Central community comprises Bricelyn, Kiester, Freeborn, Easton, Walters and Wells. Before we go forward into the future, we are going to celebrate our past with an all-school reunion on Kernel Day weekend, Aug. 16.

As a former Wells-Easton graduate I am excited about this weekend. It will be a chance to connect with friends and acquaintances from outside of my class of 1968. It will be a time to walk through the old school and remember our high school and grade school memories and listen to the stories we all have to tell that others might not be aware of.

It will be a time to remember those we loved who are no longer with us but whose spirits live in our hearts forever.  I have heard some comments about those who aren’t sure about attending this reunion because of past hurts or insecurities.

I would tell them that this is a time to heal those hurts and make new memories the same way our children and grandchildren will in the new school. USC  is moving into the future, not letting go of their past but embracing it and coming together so we can move into the future.

I had a conversation recently with someone who has been hurt in the past and isn’t sure about possibly reconnecting with those people who caused the pain.

My advice to this person was that they should attend. People have changed. Life circumstances change all of us, and we might miss something wonderful and moving if we continue to hold on to those old grudges. Come and make new memories that will overshadow the old. I hope they come to the reunion and make peace with those things that still fester inside of us.

I may meet the person that in 10th grade who told me I was ugliest girl he had ever met. I am sure he doesn’t remember that comment, but I do and I have let it go.

I am amazed at the weekend that the reunion committee has planned for people who will attend this celebration of the past of all our communities. The reunion committee is made up of people that have a vision. They may be looking at the past, but they are doing so with the tools of today. This committee has utilized social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and they have created an app for your phone, also.

The Facebook page “You might be from Wells if you remember” is 900 members strong, and the stories are alive in anticipation of the reunion.

The tentative reunion schedule is set up. There will be a pre-reunion kickoff at the Flame Theatre, a short program and the plans for the weekend will be outlined. This will take place on the evening of Aug. 14, a Thursday. Following the kickoff, comedian Roger Radley will perform two shows.

On Aug. 15 there will be many class reunions held. Christina Wood Wilson, a 2003 graduate, will display her work during the weekend.  Also, Led Penny will perform. “Mr. Jones,” a movie directed and written by USC alumnus Karl Mueller, will be shown at the Flame.

On. Aug. 16, it will be time to say goodbye to the old Wells school. Many memories will be shared as young and old tour the school and listen for the whispers of words of former students and teachers in your mind as you walk in the hallways, and as you pass by your favorite places and spaces that meant so much to you.

Join those from the your past and your present as we meet for the reunion lunch, gather in the afternoon to listen to the reunion pep band led by Bruce Van Bronkhorst of the class of 1962 and look at art and memorabilia from the past and stay for the variety show.

That evening, the Wells Kernel Day Parade will be alive with sentiments of the past. You will see the history unfold as the parade passes by.

I am excited to see old friends, the displays of former graduates who have careers in art, movies, books and other such things that they will display to let us all know the lives they have carved out for themselves from their humble beginnings in what is now the United South Central School District.

I will be sad to take the final walk through the old school, whose future might be in the wrecking ball of time. I will be sad that I will no longer be able to walk the old halls and sit in the old auditorium, which holds so many precious memories for me. The phrase that keeps coming to my mind is, “You can never go home again.” This community will still be home but part of what made it home will be gone.

In my sadness is excitement about remembering the past, cherishing the coming together of those who shared that past and moving on to a future in a new school that will shape the lives and the future of our young people. One day there will be a 100 year reunion for them and they will be able to see those in the past cared about their future. Who knows what the future graduates of United South Central will accomplish. We can only imagine.

“Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past, what to enjoy in the present and what to plan for in the future.”

— Arnold H. Glasow 

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