Bizarro World Me Looks Like Heidi Klum
“Welcome to Moe’s!” is what greets me every time I step foot into the chain “Mexican” restaurant I visit only when every other place is too busy. Since moving to the “boho” part of my city, I have become slightly more refined in my tastes. Buying local produce. Eating at non-chain restaurants. Visiting the one screen indie theater. And repeat. So I always secretly feel guilty when I partake in the artificially flavored chemically altered “food” that is Moe’s.
It was this past Friday that I found myself at Moe’s on my lunch break, somewhat begrudgingly. My first two choices of places were too busy, so right smack dab in the middle of the payday lunch rush, Ryan and I walked into the restaurant, and got in the very back of the extremely long line.
“Oh you can go ahead” said the tall, dark haired guy about my age, with one of those faces that looks like someone you know. Oh wait. This was someone I knew. This was that guy…oh what’s his name…the popular one who went out with the cheerleader….and then that other cheerleader…oh crap. “Hey! How are you?” We both said at the same time, probably mutually forgetting each other’s names. I’m simultaneously happy and stressed to be running into this person. Happy, because this is the first time I have run into someone from high school while I was with Ryan, and I could introduce and show off my super hot awesome boyfriend. Stressed, because this person was not someone I was friends with at all, and the line at Moe’s was long enough that I either had 15 minutes of awkward conversation, or awkward silence ahead of me.
I chose conversation.
“So, are you married, or have kids, or any of that weird grown up stuff I still feel strange asking?” I said, just as cringe-worthingly as it sounds. It was one of those questions you ask to be polite, but really already know the answer too. This guy, I finally remembered his name (we’ll call him Devin) was the extremely popular, very cute, very “social”, star athlete type in high school, so to picture him married just eight years past graduation seemed laughable.
“Yep, married, no kids yet though. Oh there she is, this is my wife.” I shook hands with the sweet looking blonde woman, and tried to hide my surprise. They lived in the same neighborhood I grew up in. Because it has good schools. For their future kids. They have a black Labrador.
I felt like I was in some kind of bizarro world where I suddenly was old, and everyone my age had a mortgage and talked about lawn irrigation.
He, his wife, Ryan and I, talked throughout the whole line, catching up on work, and mutual friends, (almost all who are married with one or more kids by now) and life in our town. By the time we parted for separate tables, I almost forgot that Devin and I never once, I don’t believe, every had an actual conversation in high school. Ryan was pretty surprised when I told him this, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how strange it was how so much can change in nine years.
Nine years ago I was in high school, single, excited to start college, sure that I was going to end up employed in the political world after getting my degree, very conservative, and of course, highly motivated by “popularity.” Senior year of high school was the only year that I was even remotely, briefly, “popular”, and only because I was befriended by an “A list” girl who let me eat at the “cool” table with her during lunch. It was something I was so proud of, and I thought was so significant. Even though most of the “cool” kids never talked to me. They secretly probably made fun of me. It didn’t matter though, because I wanted so badly to fit in, and thought that being “popular” positively affected you for the rest of your life. I was sure of it.
Fast forward nine years, and I’m standing in line at Moe’s with one of the most “popular” kids, who’s put on just as much weight since high school as I have, and we’re having a mature, polite, grown up conversation with our significant others. And while there’s nothing wrong with it – I don’t want his life. Or care if I’m in it. And those people I used to care so much about impressing? They don’t affect me in the slightest.
It’s the kind of experience I wish I could bottle up, package, and mail to my past self, to show her that those things she thinks are so important, and significant? Those things don’t matter. You know what matters? Being a good person. Acting kind to others, especially to the kids no one else is. Learning. Caring about who you are, more than who people think you are.
It’s also an experience I wish I could give to all the teenagers and children who are miserable right now, suffering through the hell that being different in school can feel like. Show them that if they can just make it through the next four, or six, or seven years, that the world as they know it will absolutely be different, and broader, and most likely better. I wish there was a way to convince these kids that the world they live in now, the one that is so small and seems so rigid and impossible to survive, is really just a tiny blip on the line of their life. Adolescence is like heartbreak. While you’re in it, you never think you’ll survive, or reach the end, and you are sure if you don’t get what you want, then you will never ever be happy. But eventually, you do survive, and it does end, and you realize you are happy even though you never got that thing you thought you would die without.
I never thought that Moe’s would be the place where I’d have that kind of epiphany, but I realized over my cheese quesadilla, that for me, it “got better” a long time ago. Life got so much better, and I was so busy enjoying it, that I never noticed how far I’d came.