My 20 year high school reunion was this past weekend. I was so glad I went. I was lucky enough to go to a high school with a very diverse group of people. I can't recall race ever being an issue in our high school. Like Depeche Mode sang, 'People are People' (come on, I had to reference the 80s!) and that's really how it was. There were so many different cliques/groups but people were accepting and you could easily hang out with a different group at an event and it wasn't a big deal. I love that about the class I graduated with because in this day and age it seems rare.
Ahh, high school. The mere thought of it brings back such mixed memories. I can see the hallways and lockers now. I wasn't popular but I wasn't unpopular. I wasn't a geek but I wasn't a jock either. I was just there trying to navigate my way through it. And here I thought it was just me with these kinds of issues. How self centered is that? I think back then the perception of who I thought I was was and where I fit was so skewed because I was so insecure. Then again, who wasn't? It's such an awkward time.
I was probably never over 102lbs in high school. I was completely flat chested, straight as a board--remember this was the mid-80s when thin ultra-curvy Supermodels ruled the fashion world and every magazine I owned. I had never even had an eyebrow waxing! haha Basically never could believe I was even remotely attractive to ANYONE. Especially because the boy I pined for didn't give me the time of day. That truly affects who you are and who you become later in life. I have to say I'm grateful to have developed a decent sense of humor from it and more importantly empathy towards anyone that may feel 'different'. (I used to write poems about it! haha) What is so strange now is that person I was seems so close and yet so far away. If this were a musical the lead character would have a reflective moment and burst into song.
I finally figured out (took almost 20 years!) that most people felt the same way--lost. Everyone was unsure of who they were and were testing out the waters in negative and positive ways. We were all trying to figure out where we fit in. At 15, 16, 17 it is not an easy task. Everyone wants to fit 'in'. As a teenager in the mid-80s part of fitting in meant big hair. It meant getting up super early to try and get stick straight hair (recently permed!) curled and teased the right way to achieve the volume of '80's' hair. I never really 'got it' no matter how much Aqua Net I used. The other thing about high school for me was that I was a Letter Girl (cheerleader type that spelled out our mascot name: P I R A T E S). And in our class being one was more of a negative than it was a plus. One of my co-letter girls called it a 'set back'. No one really cared in our class unless you were 1) good looking enough to where it didn't matter what you did or 2) in academics or sports. I lettered in badminton. (Oh come on, it is, technically, a sport.)
I think back and I want to have a conversation with that person I was and say man, it gets easier and definitely much, much better. I would tell myself--you were wrong to spend so much time creating and worrying about non-issues. How do you write poems about things you know nothing about? What lost love did I experience other than what I saw in John Hughes' movies? 4 years is such a small amount of time to base your life or lack of one on any one guy, any one group, any one thing. It's living in a bubble with some of the same people you knew from the time you were 6 years old. You carry the stereotype of who you were through the years and then you realize once you get out it's not who you were at all--or even wanted to be. There is no real freedom in high school. The people that are truly themselves are usually considered odd. Then you come to the realization it's actually better to be odd. Who wants to be like everyone else? What is normal anyway?
I guess that's why after high school was over I realized I didn't really enjoy it. I was trying and wanting to be someone else--insecurity led me to be a person I probably really wasn't. I was lucky enough to have friends throughout all those years though. Imagine the person that does not. I want to cry for them and scream out loud--it only gets better! When you leave high school you also leave behind who people assume you were and open a door to who you want to be without restrictions.
The reunion was so great in that all of us are doing well, look good, are healthy and in a place where we can now be in each other's company as our own individuals and feel like we are still part of a whole, special piece. Some of those people are like family to me. I'm saddened that not a lot of people were able to come, and even more sad that some people still carry bitter attitudes towards those high school days. I can understand why they may, but 20 years is a long time to still hold onto what was.
I can now look back on that time fondly. I get sentimental. I genuinely like (and even truly love some of) the people from high school and in adulthood would want to still know them, be friends with them and see them regularly. In the yearbook next to my senior picture I wrote something that still resonates with me today: "I'll miss you a lifetime"...and I still do.