1989 was the year I graduated from High School.
Strange that it was only this past Saturday night that I fully understood that sentence’s meaning.
What it means is that I achieved all that could be achieved from that environment at that time. All that was then left was a quickly decaying banana peel of memories with enough residual acid to fuel a few nightmares and corrupt my ability to think highly of myself.
Saturday night was my 20 year High School Reunion. I knowingly went back into the dark. Unsure of what I was looking for or if it was at all in my best interests to surround myself with people who historically have used grading scales I did not agree with.
So what did I learn?
I learned that – much like in any ‘after-school special’ of my youth – the people you forgot were the ones that you were happiest to see. You felt a wash of relief at seeing the kind eyes of Katherine Helgerson – the smartest person you always wished you had known better. The excitement at the fact that she recognized you and mimicked “big eyes” at the scary freakish nature of the event surrounding us. That we didn’t have much to say to one another seemed to dull in comparison that we were happiest at the visual proof in each other’s eyes and their simple offer of a smile that they were every bit as good a person as you remember them being. Wordlessly you felt safer by their side looking out at the masses of black sequence dresses bobbing up and down on the dance floor to Def Leppard before us.
My overall press release on the evening will reveal that it was a fine event. People looked happy. Some people were remarkably preserved. I’d even have to tip my hat to some very successful boob jobs. There seemed to be some happy couples – my kudos to all of you for doing something I have been unable to do. I am genuinely happy for them. It was nice to speak to some people who just immediately wanted to talk about their kids. That warmed my heart. That if someone had to do an elevator speech on the significance of the last 20 years of their life…that it all came down to the production and gleeful maintenance of a 7 year old boy - whose photo just happened to be handy. I liked that. Even better if it wasn’t a boy and turned out to be a dog. In which case they would have 3 pictures.
Alternatively, I was awed the shallow nature of the people I did remember. The people I ‘did know’. People I had kept in touch with over the years. I have to say that was disappointing. Saturday night – they hardly knew me. I smiled at that. It’s a simple equation. I could not offer them anything that night.
I sat back and thought about that.
I tried not to be offended by their need to do business. It was an awkward evening Everyone was emotionally charged. People were looking for confirmation of things that never existed. Trying to prove deep emotional things to people that had the brainpower of squirrels.
“They didn’t know you existed then – and they don’t care that you exist now.” I saw that story repeated multiple times before me.(Thank you Ronny Reed).
I felt like I might have died in between 1989 and Saturday night. That maybe I was a ghost. That maybe I had been sent back to this situation to glean something I had missed. A lesson that needed learning. All those John Hughes movies have screwed up the expectations of many of my generation.
I guess what I learned Saturday night is that you can actually go back. You can go back to High School. It’s still there. It’s just that you have to bring your perspective with you as your date. And if you made the mistake of becoming well rounded – you’ll be very angry about being back in high school again.
I remember once reading a quote from a book editor at the New York Times. She said – and I will paraphrase – “If you find yourself in a situation where you are reading a book you don’t like, put it aside and pick up a different one. Never go back to it. There are more stories in the world than there will be days in your life. You will not be a better person for suffering through someone’s bad tale.”
I think life is a lot like that.
I felt numb for most of my reunion. Disconnected from most. I had a nice chat with Walter, Spencer and Jason. Chats that served as the silver lining on the night. But towards the end of the evening I found myself in the lobby after just having seen someone to the valet for their car – and I just wanted the whole thing to be over. I felt I was surrounded by books with bad tales and flashy covers. I walked into the hotel bar to see the score of the baseball game and text my roommate. As should have been expected this space was being used for overflow from the reunion. Everyone was drunk and loud. And ugly.
That was it. I finally saw it. I had gone back to my high school reunion to see that most people were not at all happy. That some of them were held together by duct tape and lip gloss and that no amount of high pitched voices or teethy monkey smiles would convince me otherwise. And that’s not exactly the breakthrough point – I mean I do feel bad for people who have had it rough. The breakthrough moment was when I realized that I didn’t have any contract with them. There was nothing in place that said I had to be involved with their betterment or clarity of who I was or entangle ANY of the things I held dear with them and their stories. The people I didn’t like in high school…I can just cut’em lose. Throw the bad book on the fire and put it all behind me.
I strangely like who I am and I need to start seeing that something important. I can’t spend my time catering to people who can’t fit me in a stereotype. They will serve as nothing but speed bumps in my life’s progress.
I think I should have used my 2nd grade instincts and just not be friends with the bad people and be happy doing what I want to do. To hell with the 105 lb. artificial blondes and their prada sequence (prada was never very good at sequence anyways) girl you need to stop telling me you missed me so much cause I am sure that type of lying is what caused you to turn out like this – I want to hear a good computer joke and have you ask me to guess what buffet item caused the stain on your lapel.
God I hate a bad party.