Friday, April 11, 2008

Whilst introspective and angsty, may as well talk about high school (again)

High school. To play upon Chris Bell's brilliant renouncement of Tom De Lay at the recent Senate District 11 caucus, high school is like herpes: the angst that keeps on giving.

Lest I sound like some loser or moron who agonizes over something that was half my lifetime ago (or so), I didn't really think about high school for years and years and years. I'd add another 'years' but it just makes me feel old(er).

But high school has resurfaced in my mind recently and there are a few good reasons.

It's on my mind today because Her Bad Mother (who could use some warm fuzzies today, I think) started a writing prompt about prom. Yes, that's my prom photo above. It's the only one of me without the boy in it, and it would be no good to make him an innocent bystander victim by including him in this blog.

(My prom, in brief, as if you care: Went with boy was dating at time; was broken-hearted because I felt ditched by good friend who went with her boyfriend's crowd; rallied because went with other friends; dropped mom's diamond earrings down sink; saved the ass of friend who ditched me when I caught her before she went out into lobby with dress tucked into her pantyhose and she swore I was her BFF; the highlight of the night was dancing by myself to Dancing By Myself. It was just another day and dance with everyone in pouffy taffeta with frouffant hair, the same old people I saw at school every day, only drunker, and so fraught with anticipation and expectation that there was no way it could be as enjoyed as a regular event. I remember thinking: I cannot wait to blow this joint.)

But high school is on my mind now because it's my twenty year reunion.

Twenty years.

Oy.

Was it really that long ago?

That---this---brings up a wealth of pondering the present against perusals of the past.

In a conversation about high school reunions today, I ended with the question, "But can one weekend reunion really provide the closure and relieve the leftover complexes?"

Isn't that sort of creating another prom-like situation, fraught with such anticipation that it can't possibly meet expectation?

I asked that question because whenever high school reunion conversations come up, people who advocate going usually promote the following three points:

1. It's so good to reconnect with people, all of whom are all grown up and nice now.
2. It really lays a lot of the past to rest.
3. It's fun. Cut loose! Footloose!

(Okay I got a little off-track there. Nobody bursts into old Kevin Bacon movie theme songs. Usually.)

See, here's my feeling: people and dynamics rarely change. We grow, we move on, hopefully we mature, behave better, and so forth. Even so, at heart, we are who we are, and when we get together with people we knew at a certain time in life, aren't we likely to revert to the old dynamic? Isn't that even more likely if the last time you saw one another was back then?

I joined that Classmates.com site. I've looked around. People pretty much look the same. What makes me think they'd be any different, that I'd be any different?

The truth is, most of my classmates weren't horrible or evil. Many were quite nice. In general, a lot of nice people tried to fly under the radar and stick to their happy niches. They were smart. I wasn't quite so smart. This made me vulnerable, especially because, as is the case in any high school, some classmates were really unnecessarily mean, with that entitled arrogance some girls (and boys, to be fair) always seem to have and carry through life.

I can't actually even blame them, though, for the part of me that hated high school. What I really hated was how I acted in high school; that is to say, I was a compromise of myself, and not really me. I simply wanted to get along and not be ridiculed.

In order to do that, I tried very hard to do acceptable things, things that made me happy or happy enough and that would render me acceptable by my peers. In one of those twists that life often offers, this frequently set me up to feel worse about myself.

It all goes back to this concept of want and need, and how you can't always get what you want. I wanted to be more important rather than less important. And I wasn't. Hell hath no fury like a thwarted teen.

In all this trying, I missed out and lost out on some real good, and probably made quite a jackass of myself at times. I certainly wasn't as good a person as I could have---or should have---been.

Most importantly, it established a really horrible pattern.

When I completed high school I ran along my merry way and made no attempt whatsoever to keep in touch with anyone from my class. A few made an attempt here or there with me, and some I kept crossing paths with at the university. However, by and large, few people kept in touch or even tried. I imagine it was a combination of (a) other people I knew best made the decision to go as firmly as I did, and (b) the friendships simply weren't that firm, and combined with immaturity, youth, and dividing life paths, we all moved on. From one another. See, once free of high school, I thought I could really leave it all behind by having no contact whatsoever with it.

What I didn't leave behind, though, were my complexes and patterns I graduated with, and so, there was a lot of lather, rinse and repeat that made me wonder if anyone ever really left high school (figuratively). In the end, I was actually the one trapped there.

With time, I am letting go of bad lessons of high school. All around me is the continual opportunity to fall back into the bad patterns and complexes, and in a loose sort of way, it's a bit like any kind of addiction: mind over matter, new techniques, healthy substitutions, and so forth.

So with the fragile newness of the recovering, I'm loathe to walk back into the very situation that spawned it.

It's not all high school's fault. It was a perfect storm, in a way. My complexes, their patterns. I'm sure there are wonderful and interesting people there. I'm sure people who go will have fun. Some may even re-connect with old friends.

But that re-begs to the same question I asked earlier: to what end?

Why go? Many of the people I actually liked in high school are on the "where are they now?" list of missing. I can imagine that, like me, they intentionally left high school behind, in the past, but I wonder if unlike me, they actually managed to leave it behind.

If I thought that going would really be any kind of fun or lay to rest any old outstanding whatevers, I'd go. If I thought that my presence or absence would matter significantly, I'd go. Deep down, though, I suspect it won't.

What could I give? What could I get?

In truth, I expect that now, as back then, probably? It's still not a fit for my life. I've got plenty of more important now, and a good deal of it probably falls on the very same weekend.

That doesn't mean I've made up my mind, though. LOL

What do you think? What did you do with high school and reunions?

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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34 comments:

thordora said...

I spent my prom smoking weed in a park with my bestest friend in the world, who is the one and only person from high school I truly keep in touch with, who I truly care about.

I had no desire for any of that. I went to grad under protest, but skipped the "must have sex" party.

Now, with Facebook, the 10 or so people I cared to find in the world have been found. I have reconnected where I need to, found out that an old good friend is also bipolar, and so is a great sounding board. One lives in the maritimes as well, and we connect sometimes.

I went to 3 high schools. I have no desire to go to reunions for any. The past can stay where it was. For the most part, people don't change in the ways that matter, in who they are inside, the kind of person they are. 20 years (generally) adds some fat, some grey, and hopefully perspective.

I have no one to one up, no one to settle with, no one to see one last time. I am content with the now, as I was then.

And, as then, I just don't give a crap. :)

thailandchani said...

I can only echo Thordora. I just don't give a crap.

I graduated a long, long time ago... 39 years ago .. and I can't see any benefit in dredging up all of that old stuff - even though I'm sure there are some who have changed and become lovely people. Still, it's nothing I care to revisit at this stage of life. In this case, curiosity isn't going to trump common sense.

At my age - honestly - I would have to question anyone who had an interest in a 40-year high school reunion. You know.. if they haven't moved on by now, I suspect their maturity probably isn't all that certain.

Jenny said...

I went to my 10 year reunion and was bored out of my mind. I don't think I'll be going to any others. I've kept in touch with the few folks I care about so I can't find a reason to bother.

I wonder if reunions were more worthwhile pre-internet. When it was harder to find folks years later, maybe it was worth going to the reunion to figure out what they had been up to.

Mayberry said...

My 20th is this summer too. I'm going. I have one good friend from those days whom I'm in regular touch with, and then several others who are in the "holiday card only" category. I still like them, but we're not a regular presence in each other's lives. So I'll go to see them and talk to them.

I'm thinking it would be fun to show up pregnant though. That would really floor some people who finished having kids 15 years ago.

Florinda said...

I have skipped every class reunion - 5th, 10th, 20th, 25th last year - for one reason/excuse or another. My first husband and I were in the same high-school class, and we kept in touch with the few people from there that we wanted to, so I figured there was no real point to the reunion thing. Then there's the practical consideration of increased geographic distance from where I lived then; I'm all the way across the country now, and it's not worth the trip. (They also don't know how to find me since I moved here, thank goodness.) Plus, I relive high school through my kids, and that's as close as I want to get.

I relate to a lot of your reflections about the person you were in high school vs. now. I think that for me, a lot of those patterns continued into my marriage, since we had that experience in common. I've done a lot of delayed growing up since that marriage ended.

My second husband has a 30th reunion coming up in two years, and I'll go along to that if he wants to. I suspect someone else's reunion has less baggage.

womaninawindow said...

Even though I live within 30 minutes of my highschool (after travelling internationally) and there are only 7000 people in the general area (OMG that sounds pathetic) I would do my absolute best to not attend a reunion. If I really wanted to be present with all those people they'd be present in my day-to-day now, right? Ick! Not a pleasant thought. good luck with it though...

annenahm said...

Oh high school! I went to my 10 year. Our reunion was a weekend away at our school, and I had a new baby so I could only show up for the last day of it. I met up with an old friend who looked quite haggard.

She said that the weekend started out all adult and happy, but slowly decompensated ala Lord of the Flies to the ugliest clique montage ever.

So I guess my suggestion would be to go in with a rope tied around your waste (ala Poltergeist) and have someone forcibly retract you should things get ugly.

Also? Have fun!

SciFi Dad said...

I have no interest in going to my high school reunion. I am not the same person I was then, and anyone who I wanted to remain in touch with, I have. Everyone else? I have no interest, and really, neither do they. For proof, see the fact that everyone who adds me as a "Friend" on facebook from high school chit chats once, and then fades back into the abyss from whence they came.

Cynical, but true.

flutter said...

I refuse to go to mine, but mainly because I have nothing to wear! heh

Gwen said...

I've been to two of mine, but my high school situation is different than most people. It's not like we're all flying to Malaysia for thai iced coffee and roti canai. So we meet in some random place in the middle-ish of the country, a church retreat center (which I LOVE, oh yes). There's no alcohol or partying of any kind. Just several days of hanging out, talking, me avoiding the circle prayer sessions. The first time I went because I needed to prove to myself that I was really over the whole "you are going to hell" thing. The last time I went because I actually had fun the first time and because I am terrible at keeping in touch so I want to know what people are up to, who they're becoming. Also, I don't know anyone else who understands what it's like to be a missionary kid like my friends from high school. And there's a real comfort in meeting up with people who, no matter how different you've become, really "get" this huge part of your life that no one else does.

Robert said...

Certainly, there's plenty of the "same old guy, less hair" type of stories at any reunion. With your sense of justice, you might enjoy seeing some of the popular people who you were at odds with looking haggard. I never had any problems with people in my high school. Not really, anyway. I wasn't Mr. Popularity or anything, but I was sort of untouchable. I got along with just about everyone, and everyone basically knew me. I was a nice guy who didn't ruffle people's feathers too often, and when I did it was because they needed it. My reunion last year was fun in many ways, and it was great to catch up with people I wondered about, but no new bonds were formed and none were really rekindled. It was just a night of amusement, as you say. My advice: if it holds so much angst for you, stay home. If you think you could purge it with one trip, go. I imagine you're more in the middle of the two, which still suggests staying home is a good course of action, given your circumstances. Best of luck, regardless.

Mad said...

I live too far away from where I grew up which means that I missed #10 and #20. For #10, I would have had baggage and would have wanted to prove that I was better than how everyone saw me back then. In short, I was still young. For #20, I would have simply loved to hang out at a barbeque on a farm in my home town. I would have loved the sights and smells of everything AND I would have genuinely enjoyed the people and loved learning about the paths that brought them to sensible (or not) adulthood. Sadly I missed it. I was told it was fun.

BTW, you are wafer thin in that photo. Almost too thin for your own good.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

Yes, too thin in that photo, as Mad said.

I've been to my reunions, just had the 20 year in 2006. It is fun/interesting to see some people. But by and large, I don't feel that it was oh-so-great or that people changed.

Looking back, I am not too happy with my high school self and I'd prefer not to be in a situation where I feel I need to prove something.

One little aside: I wish I hadn't gone with my husband. He was bored and I felt weird reminiscing about things that happened so long ago and are completely irrelevant to today.

Suki said...

I feel the same way as you do about high school, though we don't really have a prom night here. We DID have a farewell, which involved much dressing up and eating... I guess that comes close.

I've been out of there exactly two years now... I really don't want to go back. I've skipped all the "reunions" so far, and unless I feel there's someone worth meeting in there I won't go.
It's been only two years, and most of the classmates - including me - are still occupied with trying to figure out what we'll do with our careers. Most of them, unlike me, are yet to come to any semblance of self-realization.

I feel that the strange things you and I did(I see a lot of similarity there, believe me!) in high school come partly from troubled childhood, from mixed signals from adults who want us to grow up in a certain way, from a LOT of insecurity, needing the love and attention.
In the end, once out of there and with a partner who gives me that love and security.. I'm beginning to outgrow those pretty sucky habits. From your blog, you sound like you've grown into an incredibly stable and wise person yourself - I'd like to have your combination of creative energy and emotional stability myself!

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say.. just, thank you for being you and writing this blog so honestly :).

Kathryn said...

I hear ya. I think I'd go more for curiousity than anything else. I know that is lame. I'm not even THAT curious.
When I went to my 10 year reunion years ago nothing had changed. I always got along with all the "groups" in high school but there are always those bitchy girls. They were still bitchy. Ca-razy!
I remember one bitchy girl came up to me at the reunion and said, "So, your husband is an attorney? Where is he? Is that him?" and pointed to the nerdiest looking guy in the room. I just had to laugh. Oh man. Some chics, I tell ya.
I don't think you will miss out on much, but if you have any inkling of desire you should go. Everyone hates "what ifs". :)
And one more thing, my prom (we called them "formals" sucked! I think everyone's prom sucks. Like you said, too much anticipation.

ALM said...

I went to my 15 year reunion & had a blast! I was totally different than I how I was in hs - I felt good, looked good, socialized. People were amazed: "You were so quiet in high school!" I loved it. I basked in it.

My 20 year reunion... I had just had my 2nd child, had post baby fat, leaky boobs,(a nursing pad fell out in the middle of the dance floor...!!) a failing marriage... Felt absolutely and positively the worst I could possibly feel about myself. Not such a great time.

But I still cling to that first reunion as to how could they can really be...

Family Adventure said...

By the time high school was done, I was done, too. I never felt like I belonged (mind you, I had moved to that country 3 years prior, so I probably didn't' belong). There were no hard feelings, it just wasn't for me.

I don't need to go back now to see anyone. I'm not even curious - is that strange? I'm very, very happy with where I went, and I think I made good (and lucky) choices.

The people I went to school with - they are strangers now. I have friends and family I'd rather spend time with. I guess that's the bottom line for me.

That picture is amazing. The hair! The top! :)

Heidi

Kyla said...

I do think reunions were more worthwhile before the Internet. You couldn't just Google someone back then.

I'm pretty sure I'll be skipping mine. Not really interested at all.

Amy@UWM said...

My 20th is next month and I'm dragging my husband (not willingly). I too didn't love my high school self (who did?) and I definitely didn't love high school. But reunion or not, that's all behind me. I'm happy with where I am now and what my life is now and I'm curious to see how others are and what they're doing with their lives. I actively keep in touch with only one good high school friend and she and her husband (also a childhood friend) are also going to the reunion. I think it'll be fun to reconnect with people who I was friendly with back then.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I've got another two years before my 20th reunion and I'm already freaking out about it. High School will do that to a person.

Jennifer H said...

I haven't been to any of mine. I kind of assume not many people would remember me, and I haven't kept in touch with more than a couple of people, and then only every several years.

So I haven't really seen the point in going.

Melissa said...

My 20th is next year and things are already gearing up for it. There's a freakin' website with a counter and everything. Even worse? One of the organizers lives around the corner from me. My world is way too small.

I went to my 10th, but only had an ok time. I was pretty pregnant and somewhat miserable. The people I really wanted to see weren't there. I seriously doubt I will go to my 20th. Unless of course I can get this extra weight off. :)

jen said...

i can't do it. i just cannot bring myself to do it.

Bon said...

oh my god. i just realized it's been nineteen years since i graduated high school.

your prom outfit, given the era, is less embarrassing than mine.

Cathy said...

I can't believe the timing of this post!

On Thursday night, I got the email -- the one notifying me of my *gasp* 20-year reunion.

My class had a 5-year reunion and, well, we just never could get it together after that, so this will be the first in 15 years. Eek.

I'm going. Because I'm one of those rabidly curious people and because I actually had more fun at the 5-year event than I thought I would.

What I really want, however, is to attend Hubs' next reunion. He's 14 years older than me, so I'll look pretty young & spiffy at that gathering!

Aliki2006 said...

I graduated high school form a school in Italy, and we have no reunions (we had no prom, either, but that's another story). I have to say I wish we had reunions--I would love to go, to see these people I once was so close to, or knew so well, at least. My husband loves his reunions, and is going in October. He, unlike me, has stayed in touch still with a handful of his high school friends.

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

I've never gone and I never will. I would step into that auditorium and instantly become that shy, goth girl again. It took me long enough to be the person I am today.

PS. You = hotness.

Christine said...

i have no interest what so ever in a high school reunion. high school wasn't horrible, but the people i cared for (just a small few) are still a part of my life. i just don't have any real interest in seeing anyone else.

painted maypole said...

i've never been to a reunion. i live too far away and they are never at a good time for me to go. who plans a reunion 2 weeks before thanksgiving. could you at least do it when I might be travelling back to MI to visit my family? but no, they don't think about this. Because no one else has bothered to leave the state. sigh.

Backpacking Dad said...

I skipped my 10th (I moved across the continent and well away from all of my high school friends and enemies a long time ago).

But lately my age group has been manifesting on Facebook and it's given me a chance to get back in touch with people. Not so many that I'd fly across country to sit with two or three of them at a party; but if I were in the city anyway I would look them up.

Also, there was this girl...

And now we're kind of friends. And that was a bit like time travel and righting old wrongs. Maybe a reunion is a place where that can happen, because maybe everyone else is thinking the same damn things you are.

wheelsonthebus said...

I totally could have written this. Except -- I did go to the reunion (10) and found it a great way to lay some anxieties to rest.

Oh, and also I didn't look that good in high school...

Super Zoe said...

a) Earrings down the sink?! I think that was Marcia Brady's prom, Missy! And for 1988 - you look fabulous! Super-thin, though.

b) I loved high school. Don't want to relive it, but loved it. I moved a lot, and got to live in the same place all through high school. A bunch of my friends just had their high school featured on the show HIGH SCHOOL REUNION. If my 10th had been like that, I would have bolted and not looked back.

c) I cannot wait for my reunion. It's half-way across the country, but that's the fun. Plus, my new hubby wants to check out the Boca weirdness that was my high school. Plus, I have a husband - that will freak out some people as much as it does me!

d) and most important: It's so interesting. Of course, I retrospectively loathe so many things about who I was, and who other people were. It's my chance to revisit who I used to be. And since I really like who I continue to become, I have learned to really love that mouthy little joiner of a kid who was fighting to figure out who she wanted to be. She did much better than I thought she would!!!

Great post. Loved it.

kim the midwife said...

I thought I would NEVER go to a reunion. I was a connector then (and now too, I suppose). My friends were preppies, druggies, leaders, geeks, and loners. I was a slut and a straight A student. I threw parties and kids threw up on my parents' white rugs... I kept touch with a few real friends over years and miles. And, shockingly, I went to the 20 year last Fall. I brought my curious husband and photos of the kids. I actually enjoyed it. I talked with some people and wished I remembered them better. I was amazed and moved by the change of others. And I was tickled when others were amazed by me. Gone was my Dead Head hair and shapeless clothing. It wasn't about saying look at me now, but look at all of us now, how interesting time can mold us. Go with an open heart and low expectations. And crop dust anyone who is too full of themselves.

Amy said...

Skipped my high school reunions because I didn't feel like I could go until I had "arrived" By the time I had "arrived" I didn't really care to go at all. Go figure.