Thursday, July 29, 2010

How I Survived My High School Reunion

As a wise man once told me: "Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events. "

As the Reunion loomed, I thought more about those I've known, things I've done, things I wished I would have done. I thought of all the people I have been throughout my life. I have been shy, reserved, scarred, nervous, lacking. I have been troubled. I have been trouble. I have done a million things. I have changed once, and changed again, and no doubt change is coming. I have been single, a serial dater, committed, married, divorced, depressed, elated, loved, besotted, enamored and charmed. I have at times found peace, only to have discord.

Seeing people from high school was not easy for me. I did not really like high school. I strongly suspect I am not so different from many people in this. Those awkward teenage years trying to figure out who you are, who other people are and how you all fit together. Sometimes, how you don't fit together. It wasn't all bad, not by any means. I have not remained close to anyone from that time, although there are a few I wish I had. Time changes us all, we make mistakes and life moves on. People move on. Life happens.

I have bumped into people from that part of my life, from time to time. It's always interesting to see people. It's been a pleasure seeing how some have a good place in life. Some others I wish I had not seen. They stirred memories best left forgotten, feelings best left numbed by time. One person I didn't even know in high school has become a great friend, and has been a blessing to me with her generosity of time, spirit and good wishes. Others I thought I reconnected with, but it seems I was mistaken.

The Reunion loomed like a black cloud, but one with a magnetic attraction. I wanted to go, and see some friendly faces. I didn't want to feel like I was back in high school. The fat girl on the sidelines. The girl everyone knows, or kind of knows, but doesn't really know. For part of the time, I did indeed feel like I was back in high school.

Then I remembered: I was obligated to attend high school. I can always leave the high school reunion. I don't even need a note from my mother.

My thoughtful boyfriend pointed out last weekend that these are people who knew who I was. They knew me for a short period of time a long time ago. They don't know me now. And likewise. And this is okay.

It's taken me a few days to process the experience, from realizing I was done at the cocktail party Friday night and putting my glass down and leaving without a word (which felt great by the way!) to seeing genuine smiles of faces of long lost friends. I will choose to remember and cherish a few great moments from the weekend. These will be the memories I will carry with me.

A true smile on the face of S.H.I. - We had been close in a few classes in high school and I remember we laughed, a lot. She seemed genuinely happy to see me, and at that moment I knew I had made the right decision in attending. She is still beautiful, with an easy smile and I am grateful.

Seeing S.O.B. (wow... those initials didn't come out the way I thought!) Somewhere along the way in high school our friendship got lost. I think it was over something silly. Most likely a boy. Funny, how things fade away and you are left with memories of what matter most. A nice person who was fun and funny and whom I enjoyed our time together.

Catching with L.I. and H.W. Funny, we made it through junior high and high school together. Remember the "gifted resources" class with Mrs. Seim and fun projects? All the shared classes? You are both indelibly imprinted on my younger life, and I thank you.

Ah, K.H.K. and J.K. What can I say about that. J.... we had a blast in debate, and having you as a friend, ever so briefly, gave me confidence and courage. K.... what ever happened to that guy? What's his name? Okay, I remember his name, but after all these years, it doesn't seem to matter. What I said to you I mean with all my heart. I am happy for you, both.

J.C. and J.T.C. It was great seeing you both that day at Panera a few years ago, and seeing you both together, married... it all just made sense. It still does.

S.H.N. Wow, you are a busy woman with a great eye for photography and a happy heart. Your websites are amazing. You amaze me.

G.E. You still crack me up. I could talk to you for hours. You probably wouldn't enjoy that, but it would be memorable!

D.D. What can I say? You could always make me smile. You bring a sense of levity to those around you. Do you know how special you are? Do you know what a special gift you have? I hope so. I see that same gift in your son.

T.W.O. and P.O. : T.... we were honest when we said we didn't know each other then, but I definitely remember you. I thought you might have been more shy than me. Apparently not anymore! You are lovely and funny and expressive. P.O. You seem to be imprinted in my memories too. I think you were always looming in a hallway or in the back of a class. You were always kind. I will always remember your beautiful daughters. I was charmed my L. I asked her what she would miss most about Germany. She said, after some thought: "My friends. But that's okay, I will make new ones." Brilliant! Seeing her and Jackson joyfully running across the field together was a tender moment. You are both blessed.

B-I can still pronounce your maiden name-C. and G.C. You are both gracious. G... when you talk to someone, they feel like they have your full attention. Thank you. B, we had a lot of laughs. I missed our friendship in high school. I think we may have lost it over something not so important, as time goes by. You are beautiful. Your son H. has quiet charm and a lovely smile. All your children are beautiful. You both seem very happy. I am happy for you.

and K.S.B. You were my best friend. I can't explain what happened, except it was a bad, dark time in my life. You were a light in high school and after. I have never laughed so much as with you. I love you dearly, and after these years, know how happy I am for you. Thank you for being so kind.

it was nice to see everyone happy and healthy. As a class, I don't think we've done too bad. The popular people were still popular. The goofy guys were still.... you know. Goofy. M.D. was entertaining and it was great to meet his wife. A girl like me is still a girl like me, a bit of an enigma and standing in the shadows. There were those who didn't talk to me in high school, and who don't talk to me now (I am sure someone might be thinking the same thing about me). The popular "kids" are all grown up, kinda. Some seem to have had a charmed life, to have it all. Some are still childish and focused on themselves. Some like to gossip and have never learned that if you don't have anything nice to say... well, you know the rest. I think we all know the truth though. Life is hard. Each life is our own, and we make the best of it as we can.

In the end though, it's all okay.Really. Everything is okay. That is a good thing. I have been many things in my life. Kind, funny, misunderstood, used, taken advantage of. Yes, I have even been mean, mean spirited and not well intentioned, though thankfully, not often. Mostly though, I believe people are basically good and so I get befuddled and hoodwinked now and then, duped by eternal hope and naive belief that no one has ill intentions, and that people are genuine and what you see is what you get. What they say they mean, and what they do has meaning. Now, I try to be reflective, and observant. I try to be the hardest of all things for me: patient. I try to be grateful for what I do have, to recognize what is important and cherish the people in my life. Hardest of all, I try to cherish myself. I cherish all that I was, all that I am, and all that I can be. That is no easy task.

High School was a long time ago. There won't be another reunion for a long time, either! I know there are others who thought much the same about me, perhaps, as I thought of them. All is fair. We were so young. I was just a face in a hallway or across the lunchroom. Familiar, but unknown. How many people in life do you ever really get to know? Life is happening all around us, have you noticed?