The Reunion

When the 5th Reunion invite arrived I immediately discarded it. Likewise with the 10th. I wasn’t ready. The scars were still fresh and sore to the touch. When I opened my mailbox to see the invitation to the 15th, I decided I would go.

I arrived, with my wife of three years on my arm and a bad attitude. I had caustically joked to her in the elevator that “the same people that didn’t talk to me in HS can have the luxury of not talking to me tonight.” I left that night not knowing if I was right or wrong, her father had a heart attack and we hurriedly left after only an hour.

I skipped the 20th. And the 25th. I was too busy, too tired, too fat, too poor, too unsuccessful…let’s face it…too full of excuses. I just wasn’t in a good place. I wasn’t prepared to talk to people about my life because I felt like a failure. I had visions of regaling people with details of my remarkably mediocre life and then sit in the corner and drink until it was time to slip out the door.

I went to the 30th with a slightly better attitude. I reconnected with a few old friends and made small talk with quite a few people. But I confirmed that I was still largely a Ghost. The people that didn’t talk to me in HS didn’t talk to me then, my caustic joke  of 15 years before had proved correct. It would later occurr to me that I didn’t talk to them 30 years ago either. It was a sobering, powerful lesson. You get what you put into things. I decided that I hated reunions and would likely not attend another.

My terribly negative, yet persistent view of Reunions had clearly stemmed from my HS experience, or lack of therein. I left HS unfulfilled and unhappy. I had few friends, few prospects, and few memories. I tried too hard to fit in. When I failed to, I drew within. I walked the halls looking at my feet instead of making eye contact. I worked a lot. I dropped out of clubs and quit teams when I got the slightest bit of grief from classmates. I ran Cross-Country because it was a solitary sport.  For years to come I blamed others for my lack of fulfillment because I wasn’t yet mature or aware enough to put the blame squarely where it belonged, on myself.

It was liberating to stop casting blame. Reviewing my High School years with a clear, honest eye, I realized that it was mostly a giant missed opportunity. A regrettable one at that.

When I received the invitation to the 35th Reunion I immediately decided that I would go. It was time to cast the monkey off of my back once and for all.

When I arrived at “The Shoe”, the place was full. I took a deep breath and walked in. I wasn’t concerned with “measuring up” against others, and I was genuinely interested in the lives of my peers without the burden of jealousy or envy. Fully prepared to say, if asked:

“Hi, I’m Bill. You probably don’t remember me. I was the color of the walls in HS. I went on to have a unremarkable career and a failed marriage. I’m on Disability. I lost almost everything to End Stage Renal Disease and I may not be alive for the next one of these. But I have 4 amazing children that I live for.
It’s goddamn good to see you though. Hey, where are you going?!?!?!?!?”

I never had to say that. Here is what happened instead.

Everyone looked great. Everyone was happy. Drinks flowed and conversation roared. The people that I recognized, I talked to.  I had a few conversations with people that I didn’t know so well. I saw most of the people that I had hoped to and definitely missed opportunities to chat with some that, after 35 years, were still strangers to me. I mused to myself, as I sat in the corner nursing a beer, the old proverb “A stranger is a friend you haven’t yet made.” As true as it was, it was a bit late for that with most in the room. I needed to be OK with that.

I left early. I didn’t feel well and was struggling with light-headedness and headaches all night. But I’m glad that I attended. For so many years I actually thought that I was the only one who had struggled in HS. That everyone else loved High School and would all grow to be happy, well-adjusted adults but me. It was when I realized that life maybe didn’t turn out for them as planned, that they maybe struggled in HS, and life after as well, that I finally gave myself a break. Life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned. All I can say is, I struggled for years to find myself, until I realized I was me all along.

It was great to see everyone. I wish I knew you all better. I wish I had made more memories to laugh and reminisce about. Alas, as the saying goes…there is no second chance to make a first impression.

 

23 thoughts on “The Reunion”

  1. I think a lot of people, including me, feel like this about reunions. I didn’t enjoy high school, and even now, I worry that it would just bring back a lot of bad memories. I admire you for going–maybe I should take a page out of your book and try it:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here, here!! Writing is so VERY liberating!! I’ve fallen in love with blogging!! It’s been an absolute miracle as a type of therapy with all of my koo koo disorders. I’ve also come to genuinely care about my fellow bloggers…..an extended family that I like!! A novel idea😉😉😂😂

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  3. Ah yes, another parallel path. Good show.

    I attended my 25th reunion first. I got hounded to go to the others, but passed. I was not popular in high school, I did not enjoy high school, but just about everyone knew who I was. Teachers liked me. I hung around a couple of people who were friends with the “in” crowd. Plus, I was pretty lucky. My graduating class was a pretty open-minded and accepting lot. Strangely liberal class, we were, before we ever knew the meaning of the word.

    But I never felt like “sharing” my life, because I never felt satisfied with it. As we all know now, it was me I was not satisfied with.

    I finally went to the 25th. I was the first on the dance floor, though I do not dance well. I laughed with everyone and when it came to the after party, they sought me out. We partied until nearly dawn (when security broke us up).

    I went to my 30th, as well. Almost a perfectly repeated performance, except security broke us up at 2. 😉

    I’m sure I’ll attend #35. I have a feeling it will be slightly more subdued, with slightly less attendees. That’s how these things work, I’m told. Plus, I rarely see the other side of midnight anymore. My screaming 40’s I’ve left behind. 🤣

    Another spectacular addition to the archive, my friend. I’m glad you went, enjoyed, and lived to write about it. I’m glad you’re writing. Stay well, and keep penning. As Susan said, you’re a rock star, Superman!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ah yes, how many years does it take for us to feel comfortable with who we are? It sounds like it can be quite a lot. Staring back at who you were at 18 compared to now does bring up deep-seated things, I suspect.

    I didn’t hate high school, but as I approach my 30th in a couple years, I have yet to go to a reunion. Part of it is that they apparently can’t find me even though my parents have lived at the same house and had the same address since I was in elementary school.

    I have facebook. I’ve seen some of the 650-something people with whom I graduated. I don’t care yet. Maybe at the 50th, should I still exist in this realm of existence. .

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha! I’m just lucky, I suppose…either that or I’ve had enough screwed up shit happen to me in my life, I’ve just decided in my middle aged to “live out loud.” No more hiding my smartass light under a bushel😊

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  5. It’s good to reconcile with your demons so you can (finally) start feeling good in your own skin, right? I’d say confidence comes with age, not always accomplishments. Besides, they differ in different people, like our priorities, and that’s more than ok.
    Sometimes, the less we have, the more humble we feel and the more we appreciate small things.

    Liked by 5 people

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