I wasn't "anybody" when I was in high school. Of course I was somebody, but I wasn't popular, or a jock, someone who was going to be a valedictorian, or who really made an impression on a lot of people in my class. And that's OK, because my life's turned out to be pretty good. Yet here I was at my 30th high school reunion recently, wondering "why am I here with these people who I have no connection to any more?" I don't mean that to sound angry, bitter, resentful or that I'm above it all, it was just something I pondered in the weeks leading up to our reunion, and throughout the entire night. Let me explain.
If people weren't interested in talking to me or being friends 30 years ago, what could have possibly changed? Why would they be interested in my life now? That's not to say we don't grow up (most of us) or mature. By now we hope we've settled down, and become a better, more interesting person. Families have been started, kids are going off to colleges, and for some, sadly, marriages never worked out.
But high school can lay the groundwork for the rest of your life. If you were an outsider then, what's to say you won't be an outsider now, at an event like this? Especially when you only see most of these people once every decade?
Now, that's not to say it wasn't nice to see a few people, especially those I've known since before high school. But to me, the most fascinating part of the evening was just being a "fly on the wall" and watching everyone interact with one another.
As I've written before, your first reunion is about trying to impress everyone with how well you're doing in life. By the 20th, the struggles of balancing work and family were the main topic of conversation. Ten years later, I think most of us have let our guard down, and are willing to share just as many "downs" as "ups" in our lives.
I know for me, it was strange having people who never spoke to me 30 years ago come up last week and tell me I was "one of the kindest, nicest people I ever knew in high school." Well, that was a nice surprise. Maybe I did make a tiny impression back then?
I also reached out to those I hoped would come, but didn't, and found out why. Some of the people who I thought "had it together" back then....looks, personality, were dating all the right people, were actually just trying to keep their head above water and hated every day of school. They had put those memories to rest, and didn't want to revisit them 30 years later. I get that. I've carried around a lot of those memories and feelings for too long, but leaving our reunion that night, with my wife, I decided it was time to let that part of my life go.
So, will I attend another class reunion? At this point, I don't think so, but who knows? And that's OK. I'm learning to better accept who I am, not who I was, or thought I would be one day so I could impress the people I spent four years with.
But this all goes back to what I started to write at the beginning of this blog...how high school, and those four years shape your life. Writer Sarah Stockman wrote "Your hometown is like your family. You didn’t choose it, yet it shapes you indelibly. Most people spend their lives either living up to their hometown’s expectations or defying them. Even if you left and never looked back — never attended a single reunion — the place you grew up is still embedded deep in the master code of who you are."