My 40th high school class reunion is coming up this summer. It’s definitely bringing back a lot of memories. I do have some good memories of high school, but mostly, I was miserable. It didn’t help that my childhood best friends moved away, but a lot of the bad was because I had a lot of mean teachers. I’m talking seriously mean teachers! I was belittled. I was embarrassed. I was yelled at. I was sexually harassed. I was told to shut up. And I wasn’t even a bad kid (although you probably won’t be surprised to hear I developed quite an attitude by the time I graduated).
Now, having said that, I have to say there were a few exceptionally kind adults who were also great influences in my life. (Mr. Christiansen and Ms. Boleman were lifesavers.) But I went to a school of 2,000 kids, so having had only a few great teachers is really pretty sad. I have to assume it’s better now. I hope it’s better now.
Back in the day, though, it was really tough for a girl who didn’t feel very good about herself. Looking back, I have to think “shame on them” for playing favorites, for putting other kids down, for not caring more, for not noticing there were real people inside some of those very confused teenagers.
But enough about me! This is about my 40-year reunion coming up this summer.
I remember when I graduated, I thought that would be the last time I would ever have anything to do with anyone or anything related to my high school. And I did a good job of that for a long time. When my 10-year reunion came around, although I was curious to know what had become of some of my peers, the hurt was still too great, and I had no desire to return.
After 20 years, though, a lot of the bad feelings had numbed, and there were people I wanted to see, particularly those from my old neighborhood. So I went. And to my surprise, I had a really good time. Life had done an amazing job of leveling the playing field. I found that many of the stars of high school were just normal people. Some hadn’t grown at all in 20 years, and some had peaked in high school and gone downhill from there. The other thing I found was that a lot of the regular, everyday kids had become very accomplished adults. I enjoyed seeing that, perhaps more than anything else.
And I found the hurt had lessened considerably. I did not forget those bad times, but I didn’t feel the feelings that used to go along with them. And I was very happy that I went.
At 30 years, my life was unsettled, and I didn’t want to deal with telling my story when I didn’t know how that chapter would end. So I didn’t go.
Now we’re at 40. It still is a bit mind-boggling, the number 40. But there we are.
Had it not been for FaceBook, I probably wouldn’t care much about attending. But I’ve reconnected with a lot of people, and I’m looking forward to seeing many of them. Some I didn’t really know. Some I did know, but I know them better now, and I really like the people they’ve become. Some I always thought I wanted to know, but it turns out, the more I got to know them online, the more I decided I really didn’t want to know them at all.
But, as I said, the field is definitely more even now. I’m sure we’ve all made bad choices; we’ve all had some great things happen; we’ve all faced serious loss; many of us seem to be happy; and sadly, a larger number than I ever would have imagined are no longer living.
Our class president died not long ago from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I didn’t know him well, but he was a good man who suffered a tragic fate, although it appeared he did have a happy life.
Recently, a classmate posted a beautiful picture of her parents and noted it was the 15th anniversary of their dying in a plane crash, or as she so eloquently said, it was the day they “fell out of the sky.” Her dad was my orthodontist, and I really liked him. I was stunned to learn about the plane crash, and I felt terrible. I didn’t know that horrible, life-altering event had happened to her. She was always, in my mind, the beautiful classmate who had it all.
Also because of Facebook, I met up with a friend I really didn’t know well in high school. She told me she had more than 25 years of sobriety. There was a lot of drinking in the high school years (so I’ve heard), but she was never someone I saw in those circles. I had no idea she would have been one who struggled with alcohol, and I was so proud to know her after hearing about her journey of climbing back up.
Mostly, I find I’m drawn to the “normal” people. They live relatively normal lives, and are very comfortable and secure in who they are. They don’t sweat the small stuff and are generally happy. They have political and religious beliefs, but they don’t feel the need to put them online all the time. They’re the ones who post interesting pictures of their travels or their families, or they post funny comments about their lives. They’re honest about who they are, and they approach life with a gratitude and joy that are infectious.
All of us from the Class of ’74 have different lives now, but we all have a bit of shared history. So we’ll see. It’s in mid-July, and I’m sure I’ll have a few things to say about it.
In the words of our controversial (seriously!) class motto, “Let the good times roll.”