Time for the High School Reunion – Who am I, What am I doing here?
This week, I’ll be attending the Woodward high school class of ’67 reunion in Cincinnati, Ohio. The reunion-ites are turning 60 years old this year, so it seems like a good time to gather. The rock and roll bands of my youth are now made of aging musicians, but they’re still rocking and plan to rock the party. Some of them are now truly accomplished in their own way. Some of them are rocker wannabes like me. This hopefully gives everyone a chance to get the Ya-Yahs out of their system.
I’ve been trying to pay attention to my feelings about an involuntary question: Can I practice the art of change with people with whom I’m likely to be anchored to my past rather than my present? These are people, after all, who had lots of opinions about the people they dealt with. Or so I’d surmise looking at high school Yearbooks, filled in as they are with personalized autographs, sincere wishes, insider insults and priceless memories.
These yearbook signings were the original tweets. And this group that is gathering was my first social network. The irony is that when you’re in high school, your sense of self is inflated by doubts, fears and hormonally fueled desires, whereas the perspective of having lived 60 years reveals that people spend a lot less time thinking about you than you might have imagined. They too were dealing with intense self consciousness.
My memory of all that is very dim. Mostly, I remember being sleepy or worried in class (algebra and industrial arts are my most painful of these memories), or miserable about some girl, or doing some avoidance pattern to cope with feelings of isolation and alienation. In fact, isolation and alienation or the dominant theme of my memories.
I remember joining a high school fraternity because I wanted to be like three of the leaders, seniors, who were cool, friendly, and popular. I remember the following year, when those three had gone and the next class stepped up into the leadership, how I disliked them and they disliked me, and one day when I heard them dissing me in the hall I grabbed and shoved my fraternity president into a locker (they held a special meeting and threw me out shortly after!) I remember how important my art was to me, same with music and poetry. I remember feeling misunderstood by just about everyone. I remember a betrayal by a girlfriend who had a cruel streak that lasted, from what I can tell, well into her adult years.
I recall a handful of instances of feeling successful (being among the chosen in grade school for college preparatory school as they called it; being placed in senior art class in 7th grade; successfully learning to play a wide range of songs on the guitar and a few on the piano; rocking with a band in front of a room full of beautiful girls and their annoying boyfriends; running away from home the first time and making it all the way to Jacksonville, Florida from Cincinnati without getting killed – though it was close, a story for another time!- ; – and learning to type.)
My feelings going into this are mostly about the handful of names that really meant something to me. I’m also curious about who will come around this time, and why. I expect to hear a lot about motivations and values, scattered amidst once-lost fragments of my memories. I wonder if I’ll feel any of the same feelings around certain students that I felt when we were in school together. It seems ridiculously unlikely, but what if?
I’m hoping to reconnect with people who have better memories so I can fill in the blanks. I’m also curious about what has become of these people, considering that we all came through the crucible of high school under the same societal conditions. I can’t help but wonder, at least a little, about how those conditions have had an impact on the lives of my peer group. Did they give up on their dreams or pursue them? Did they get fat and mean, or stay lean and focused? (or fat and focused, lean and mean, or something in between!?) How did things turn out for the popular kids? Was high school the best moment in their lives, or the beginning of something more wonderful? Did life balance the account for the arrogant and intolerant, for the harmless and hopeless? And since one of the bands is playing at the bar all night, will they still be able to rock?
Ok, I’m not really that curious. Just curious enough. Mostly I wonder if I’ll get back a few more pieces of my youth. And I suppose I wonder, or may wonder after being around my former classmates and friends, if I had a do-over, how I would do things differently.
Have you been to a high school reunion? Which one? What did you discover there? Your comments are welcome!