For some people, high school memories are not always so sweet. In fact, when I received Steven Lester‘s painful story, I wasn’t sure he wanted to share it with the rest of the class. As a matter of fact, you won’t even find his picture with the rest of the senior class photos in the Ceralbus. But after several email exchanges, this is what he wants to share about his lonely years in high school:
“At a time when nobody even talked about it or knew what it was, including myself, it seems that I was gay; and at a time when the condition had not even been given a name yet, I also was possessed by Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high-performing form of autism, from earliest childhood. I was strange, but I’m afraid that I couldn’t help it. I was what I was, and am today as well, although I am more self-accepting these days than I have been in the past.
This is why I missed the 30th and 40th reunions, because I still have little in common. . . I never did anything with any of you socially or athletically, and never romantically (as if that were actually possible with my autism). I have never been married nor have had any children, so what would there have been to talk about? I might make it to the 50th, though. The way we are all dying off so suddenly these days, I would like to see the survivors at least one more time before my own inevitable demise.
I am no longer embarrassed by what I am, mostly because those conditions have become much more socially acceptable as we have entered into the “enlightened” 21st century.
Forty-five years later, Steven lives in a small town south of Seattle and works many hours overtime as a county public bus driver, a career that has spanned over twenty years. He travels throughout the Western U.S. every chance he gets. His favorite places to visit include Sandpoint, ID where he enjoys train watching; Lava Hot Springs, ID for people-watching, and Portland, OR where he has dinner with a friend once a month.
I was most interested to learn that Steven even taught himself how to play the organ at one point in his life (remember, I’m one of those ‘dinosaurs’ who play the organ) because he loved the dramatic sound of the pipe organ. Unfortunately he stopped playing “decades ago” because of the challenge of starting at a late age.
As to the yearbook, Steven says that there was a very small photo of him in the back row of the Junior Varsity football team. He was the head manager of both teams and when it came time for photos, Steve Armstrong insisted that he be in the picture. For that, he is thankful.
He remembers that he and Lark Ziegler were classmates from Kindergarten and she always seemed to be the “most lady-like and smartest girl around.” He also sang in the choir during the graduation ceremony, “Song of Democracy” (yes, I remember this piece well!) In fact Mr. Hall threatened him with not being able to graduate if he DIDN’T sing with the choir! He also remembers the operetta, “The Lowland Sea,” as he was one of three sailors who sang “Haul Away” while pulling on an imaginary rope.
Steven, thank you for connecting with us.
Thanks for sharing, Steven. I am a special education teacher and your insights are helpful. You should be proud of yourself for being strong and making a good life for yourself, despite the challenges. Karen Walther Berg
Steven, enjoyed reading your post, I do remember you. Glad to hear your latest news, thanks for posting!
Steven, I’ve been gone from California for more than 40 years, but you are still someone I remember. It was nice hearing your news. I hope we are both able to make the 50th!
Lori Wright Evans
Steven: As a high school teacher and counselor for the past 30+ years, I was touched by your story. It certainly saddened me to know that your experience was lonely and challenging while many of us were enjoying the best of high school life.Your story reminds me now to continue to pay attention to my students and make sure that their outward appearance of contentment might not match their inner experience of confusion and isolation. As with many of my students, I most admire those who have overcome adversity, and so I applaud you for having found your own way and making a life for yourself. Scott Lipner
[…] classmate, Steven Lester, whom I wrote about in 2012, (“From one of the quietest people“) says he is now semi-retired and ready for retirement. “Because of a non-job injury […]