There are a few things in life that really help you to realize just how old you are. Body parts that stiffen and pop when you get out of bed in the morning… Finding a grey hair in places on your body, other than your head… Realizing that your children’s friends will never understand what it felt like to get a mix tape from someone you are crushing on and.. Attending your 25 year high school reunion.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that as much as I hate it, who I thought I was in high school is something I use to sometimes define myself now. It is hard to let that person go completely and I’ll never really understand why.
My high school experience was different than most. I was part of a magnet performing arts school. The school’s diversity was meticulously maintained, grades ranged from 4-12 with the main focus on the arts. Drama, dance, visual arts, music and the technical arts of the stage. It was a neat place to be and for the most part, the experience was fun. Sure there were cliques and such, but with each all school casting of the next musical, along came a new opportunity to meet new people and broaden your circle of friends
Yes, we had the typical high school stereotypes… We had some mean girls, some mean boys, stoners etc.. Teachers were unique for the most part.. But, we had the same dirty old man other schools did, the teacher who loved to talk about himself and we knew that getting him to do so would mean no class lecture or homework, the completely incompetent math teacher and the teacher everyone loved and who loved everyone. As a matter of fact we had a few of these.
But I think, more than anything, we had a lot more teenage angst than the average high school. The performing arts bring an eclectic, emotional bunch. Drama queens, sexual identity issues, body image issues, competition, but a support that was unrivaled. (Although I’ll admit that some of the sexual identity issues were very difficult for a young girl) It was a unique place to be in the early 80’s, and to be honest it is neat to see that many relationships that were forged at that time for myself and other classmates are still very solid today.
I’ve been to many reunions (we get together about once every 5 years). Some have been fun and have rekindled fun relationships. Others were odd and felt ingenuine or forced. This one was different and I can’t put my finger on why, and am not really sure why it matters.. Probably, my own wiring with the need to know the reason behind people’s actions. That part of my personality will drive me to distraction to the point of obsessing over moments and losing the impact of the whole experience, which I’m trying not to do here..
I was well-known in high school, not one of the “in crowd” but a “floater”. I used to float from group to group never really settling in anywhere. The upside was I had a different experience every day with different people. The downside was never feeling at home anywhere. I truly felt like I was always in everyone’s way. I never really found my footing and felt lost a lot of the time.
With all of the enormous changes I have made in my life recently, that footing has been difficult to find again. It has been a struggle to find a home in a new circle of friends, coworkers and family. Some in my new surroundings have made fitting in very easy, others more difficult, but I still found myself feeling lost and in other people’s way and not able to really find that foothold.
I waffled about attending this reunion. I didn’t want to feel on the outside looking in as I had in reunions past, I wanted to stay close to those friendships that nurtured me, gave me energy, love and laughter. But close to the last minute I decided to go, with my sweet, supportive husband at my side. He stood back as I hugged, laughed and caught up with many of my old friends. He stood back as one close friend shouted my name from across the room and ran to me laughing and hugging me so hard I couldn’t breathe. It is so funny to realize how much you miss someone 25 years later. And I have missed quite a few of these people.
I discovered treasured relationships in those few hours and the days after. Not only did I get to see and reconnect with many very close to me currently, but I connected with many I haven’t seen or spoken to in years. I discovered a depth of character in these people that just made me smile. This depth comes from hardships like drug addictions, divorce, loss of spouses, loss of parents, dealing with the consequences of good decisions, bad decisions, foolish decisions and the pain of self discovery and deciding to be an improved version of who were back then. It also comes from the joys of making a living at the craft they love so much, having children and finding the soul mates they had not even known they had been looking for, winning awards, succeeding at passions and simply laughing at what once was.
I was able to forgive and be forgiven. We were able to talk about petty jealousies, misunderstandings and our view of the world at the age of 17. I was able to be there when others forgave and were forgiven. I was able to watch adversarial teens become supportive and loving friends. I was able to laugh with some of these wonderful people until we literally cried.
Looking back on the photos of that night and gatherings that followed, I think that it just may be ok not to let the person go that I was in high school. She is part of my past, part of my voyage of discovering who I am and what I believe in. And the best part is, she is stronger than I thought she was.
And the best part.. In all that fun, love and acceptance, I found my footing again. I liked being part of that world and that time.. But I love being this age and this time.
And they are wrong. High school was not the best time of my life.. Right now is..