My 20 year high school reunion was off the charts amazing! I was surprised to see so many people I hadn’t in years. The food was a spread fit for even the pickiest eaters with something for everyone and the DJ had us dancing until they turned on the lights and made us leave. It was although time had never passed and I didn’t want the night to end.
…and then I got a smacked in the face with the cold, hard hand of reality. None of that happened. It was the opposite of that and I have to say, I’m disappointed. For some reason I thought it was going to be really amazing…and parts of it were, but most of it was just not what I expected. I also did not expect to be so proud of myself.
I was kind of a moron in high school. Ok, I was a huge idiot. I know most of us can look back and say there’s things we’re not proud of or realize how much we’ve changed, but when I look back on who I was 20 years ago, I usually look back with some disgust and even shame.
I was mean to people, I had a massive attitude, I was kicked off the dance team, I spent quite a bit of time in the principal’s office, I was suspended in school (twice I think but maybe it was just once?), and I dated a guy who treated me like shit – for four years. I drank, I smoked cigarettes when I drank, and really just had this sense of doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted even though my parents were trying desperately to raise me right. Sometimes they succeeded but, in my memory, often they did not. Oh, and did I mention that my mom was dying of cancer the entire four years I spent there, culminating in her death four months before graduation? Yep. That also happened. To say high school was difficult for me would be a massive understatement.
You may wonder why I even wanted to go to my 20th reunion. The answer is that I thought it would be really FUN because I have changed so much and, of course, so has everyone else. Reunions aren’t what they used to be now that we have Facebook. I could pretty much scan the room and know which classmate professed their undying love to their partner on a daily basis, posted 357 thousand pictures of their dogs/cats/birds/ferrets, how many kids they have, if they’re into selfies and weather or not they do Crossfit. But it was those who are off the grid that I was most interested in seeing. Who are these people who don’t “check-in” or tweet or are seemingly unconnected to the digital age? There were some great surprises and friendly faces I hadn’t seen in years but the biggest surprise was meeting myself.
There was a video loop on a big screen TV running footage from our senior prom, graduation and the graduation after-party which was held at the same gym I would be fired from years later. #weird
I didn’t attend the senior prom. It wasn’t from anything I did (shockingly) rather it was my boyfriend of four years who was not “invited” to attend. He had been in some fight at a party off campus or Lord knows what a few weeks before the prom, the police were called and then they called the school. His punishment was that he was banned from the senior prom. As I noted earlier, I was a moron, and therefore refused to attend without him. I’m pretty sure if the tables were turned, not only would he have gone without me, but probably would have taken my best friend as his date. He was thoughtful like that.
As I watched the video of the graduation after-party, I saw myself standing next to him and my two best friends in the whole world at that time. The volume was muted so I couldn’t hear what was being said but I was taken back by my younger self. My husband saw something too. I couldn’t believe I was staring at this girl who had just lost her mother four months prior. Someone who had been suffering, watching her suffer, for years prior to that. I always thought of myself during that time as weak, as broken, but what I saw was the opposite of that.
There was another clip from football season that same year. Me in my dance team outfit, flanked on each side by my parents. It was hard to look at. Another classmate, who I hadn’t seen in years, saw what I did at the same time and instinctually hugged me. I realized the life I once had, long forgotten. I once was just a kid with parents. Now, as parent myself, I can see what I couldn’t see before. I didn’t see a girl broken, I saw a strong girl fighting to become a woman. A high schooler struggling with problems beyond what she could comprehend, was ill equipped to deal with, and instead did whatever she could to escape them. I’m no longer ashamed but proud. I‘m in awe of that girl and what she overcame and being suspended from school seems like the least of what I could have done.
In the years since that graduation day, I turned from not being too interested in school to graduating with honors from Boston University. I went from being afraid, to moving to Los Angeles by myself and working an internship at CBS for an entire summer when I was 20 years old. After graduation, I moved to L.A. again, by myself. Three years later, I missed my family so much that I moved back to the east coast, met a wonderful, successful man and married him on a beach in Key West. I opened my own fitness business and ran it successfully for five years until I became pregnant with twins and carried them to 37 healthy weeks. And finally, slowly along the way, I turned that non-caring drinker/smoker into a determined athlete. It seems like a hell of a lot longer then 20 years ago when I was that girl on the TV screen and it was time to give her a break.
The rest of the night was pretty mundane which may have given me the space to look inward. Don’t get me wrong though, it wasn’t without the token drunk girl and someone managed to spill wine on my white pants. Could’ve been me. I know – who hell wears white pants to a party with red wine?
I also found out that all of my former classmates either live in Ellington, CT, New Jersey or DC. That’s it. The number one thing people said to me was “Every time I see your posts on FB I feel like I should be working out.” Was that code for “Can you please stop posting all your running and working out crap on FB because it makes me hate you.” Perhaps.
The most dramatic thing happened when we left the party. My husband was pulled over for speeding like a maniac on the highway en route to our home. I guess I’m still with the boy who wouldn’t be “invited” to prom. Some things don’t change. What can I say?
Have you ever been to a high school reunion? Why? Why not? Was it fun or lamer then actually being in high school?