Monday, January 22, 2018

I (probably) won't attend my high school reunion

My high school class is having a reunion this summer. I probably won't attend, although, the event is less than three miles from my home.

I was going to write that my K-12 experience was painful in many ways. But really, who doesn't that apply to? I suspect that this is largely true even for those who were on the top of the social heap in the bizarre microcosm that school life is. No doubt school life is more miserable for some than for others, but from my decades of observation it seems that everyone who attends school endures plenty of social suffering.

In reality, my K-12 experience was unremarkable. I was nowhere near the top of the social pile, but I wasn't near the bottom either. Somewhere in the middle, I guess. I never got much involved in school related activities that earn students recognition, one way or the other.

Part of this was due to the fact that I always had an after school job starting at age 11. But I suspect that the main reason for my low involvement in things like sports, student government, arts, clubs, etc. was that I simply didn't think I was good enough to do any of that stuff. I looked at the people who were involved in those things and figured that I didn't fit in with them. Once that concept formulated, everything I experienced seemed to confirm it.

Consequently, school life wasn't any larger part of my social experience than was absolutely necessary. I don't recall that I felt particularly sorry about my aloofness from school social activities. It was what it was and I was pretty much fine with it. I was muddling through, finding my own social path (pun) in life. School social life was so unimportant to me that I didn't provide a photo for my senior yearbook and I didn't bother to stick around for yearbook signing at the end of the school year.

Fortunately, some of the guys my age from my neighborhood formed a loose group during my junior high years, that over time picked up several other members. Group membership ebbed and flowed, but by the time I was a senior in high school there were about seven of us who did a lot of hanging out together. Our activities weren't always the best; we were typical teenagers. But for the most part I feel that these guys lifted and strengthened me, and provided positive peer pressure.

Our associations continued more or less through our young adult years until each of us married. There was no online social media back in those days, so we kind of lost track of each other as we went about life. I hardly see any of those guys nowadays, although, some live nearby and we are now connected on social media. (I have no idea where two of them are.)

Decades after high school graduation I can look back and see that life has had its ups and downs. My children bring me tremendous joy and pride, but also a fair amount of sorrow. It seems that these things are inseparably connected. I have had ups and downs in my career. Experiencing the inevitable aging and demise of parents has brought challenges. Everyone has their troubles in life.

But for the most part I can say that my life has been idyllic. For a former fat guy and former college drop out my age who has Multiple Sclerosis and hypothyroidism, I have to say that my life has been tremendously blessed. I have a wife—a truly choice soul—who I love far more deeply than when we married decades ago. Better yet, she not only tolerates me; she loves me, despite my manifold foibles. We live in a decent neighborhood with decent neighbors. I have enjoyable relations with family members. Life is pretty darn good.

Quite frankly, I have no interest in stepping back into the social structure of school life for even one evening. Why pollute the present goodness of life with memories of where I stood in the painful and weird pecking order that school life was?

I have been told by some that when you get this far out from your high school days that the old social arrangements of those youthful years no longer matter. The two-thirds of life as mature adults that has passed since those callow times has made us all much more alike than different. It's not a competition about who has the most markers of worldly success, but an opportunity to connect with others who have walked a similar path.

Maybe. But the last time I attended a high school reunion many years ago, I ended up seated among people with whom I had never had a single class and with whom I had literally never spoken during our school days. I'm not enough of a social creature that I enjoy hanging out with strangers like that, despite the fact that we attended the same school.

I'm also wondering who I would really like to see at an event like this. I can only think of a few and there's no guarantee that any of them will attend. When I turn the question around and realize that others are also formulating lists of those they would like to see at a reunion, I can't imagine my name showing up on anyone else's list. Thus, I don't foresee myself attending this year's reunion. There simply doesn't seem to be enough incentive for me to be there.

To each of my classmates who will be attending the reunion, please know that I wish you well and hope you have a great time. I hope your life has been wonderful so far and wish you much happiness going forward. I will be sending these good vibes remotely.

Unless I change my mind and decide to attend. It could happen, I suppose.