Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why I won't go to my 20 year high school reunion

WARNING:  Read at your own risk.  This post is not intended to be funny, nor is it meant to piss anyone off.  If you laugh, or get mad, you're probably one of the reasons I'm not going.

I've been debating, for months, whether or not to attend my 20 year high school reunion.  Surprisingly, it was a tough decision, but once I made it I thought "why the hell was that so hard?" and the following diatribe will enlighten you as to why. 

If we went to high school together, and especially if you are going to the reunion, please don't be offended, and don't think I'm looking for sympathy.  I'm not.  I just need to be honest, for myself, for my two children, who will be in high school someday, and for all the high schoolers I work with and see on a daily basis.

I went to school with the same group of kids from Kindergarten until graduation.  It's not like I had a hard life.  I had a pretty charmed life, actually.  I had two parents who loved me, an older brother who was mean to me, a dog and a cat, a swimming pool around the corner and we never went without food, shelter, or clothing.  Thank God, because if I would have had to put up with all the shit I went through in school, on top of no clothes or a house, well I don't think I'd be where I am today.

It really hit home for me when I started to see all the yearbook photos posted on facebook, and then I dusted mine off and looked through them for the hell of it.  I thought back on school, all 13 painfully excrutiating and embarassing years and honestly, my best memories aren't reflected in those yearbooks.  Those belong to someone else.  Those belong to the kids who belonged.  Who had the parties, went to the dances, ruled the school, that kind of thing.  Not me.  My best memories are outside those four walls of school, with the few friends I have kept, and with my family.

High school was painful, as was junior high, and to an extent so was elementary school.  What I remember most from elementary school was being tormented for being tall and gangly.  Being called Rover and barked at on a daily basis.  Yes, I've been to therapy (not for this) and NO I don't need to go back.  I'm glad those things happened to me because they shaped the woman I am.

Junior high wasn't much better.  I discovered a talent for playing music in the band, and yeah, I liked it.  LOTS.  It sure as hell beat anything else I could have done.  I was never good at sports, even if I tried.  I wasn't EVER going to be a cheerleader even though I desperately wanted to fit in that crowd.  Nope, I was a band geek through and through and some folks never let me forget it.  But you know what?  If I had to do it again, I wouldn't do a damn thing differently.

What I remember most from junior high are all the dances I went to and none of the boys asked me to dance, I remember trying out for cheearleader (what the hell was I thinking?  all legs and elbows and absolutely NO SKILLS) and never making the squad, and I remember Craig Woods (yeah some of you are going to be named!) telling me one day by my locker that I was a pirate's dream.  I didn't understand (I was SO NAIVE) and he said "duh, you have a sunken chest." 

Well excuse me for being a LATE LATE LATE LATE LATE  LATE bloomer (I didn't really get boobs until I was about 25!).  Am I mad at Craig Woods?  Hell no, I bet I couldn't pick the guy out of a line up today, but back then he was a cool kid, and I was just the opposite.  And you know what?  Maybe he was being a little asshole because he was only tall enough to see my boobs (or where they should have been) and he wished he'd been taller and had more choices in chicks.  Who the hell knows.  And I don't give a shit anyway.  I just remember that it hurt.

I remember the last day of ninth grade and thanking God that junior high was over.  And on that last day I went to a party after school at someone's house, I honestly think her mom made her invite everyone, but I only remember feeling awkward and out of place because I didn't fit in with the "in" crowd.  I left early, walked home, and prayed to God that high school would be better.  It wasn't.

The highlight of my high school career was meeting Becky Hipp Hodgen, who to this day is still my friend.  And honestly, it's only because she has never given up on me.  We have been through lots together, but the funny thing is, we didn't even have the same classes at school.  My BEST memories of high school are hanging with Becky and not one of them is at CV.  We usually hung out on the weekends and had a hell of a time.  We were always thankful to survive the week and compare notes about the misery we endured.  She was painfully shy, which folks mistook for being "stuck up" and I was, well, just me.  And guess what?  Becky is the best woman I know, and lots of people missed out on what a rock star she is.

As for me, once again I was a just a band geek who paid her dues and rose to the most supreme level of band geekdom as a junior by becoming one of three drum majors for our marching band.  That was a HUGE accomplishment for me, and an experience I'll never forget.  It really was awesome.  I went to Canada at least three times traveling with the band, all over Washington and Idaho and it was the only place I ever felt like I succeeded.  And where I sort of fit in.

And while being in the band was a blast, it surely wrecked any dreams I had of being "popular" and invited to parties, having a boyfriend and going to school dances.  And you know what?  I wouldn't do a damn thing differently.  Not one.  Damn.  Thing.  Even though at the time I felt like I was missing out.

Then I made a bad decision as a junior to try out to be our school mascot.  After one more failed attempt at being a sophomore cheerleader I had given up on the dream.  I was totally OK with the band and my small circle of friends.  And yet, something possessed me to become a giant fuzzy bear that acted like an idiot in front of hundreds of people for an entire school year.  I was pretty happy about my choice, after all wearing a costume and being a goofball was a nice metaphor for my life. 

I remember after the "winners" were announced (it really wasn't a contest anyway because no one really wanted to be a cheerleader or the mascot that year so it wasn't like I beat anyone out of the job) one of the girls I had known since junior high said to me, "Well I guess since you couldn't be a cheerleader you took the next best thing."  I will never forget that.  Hadn't even crossed my mind that I'd found another way onto the squad, I really just want to make an ass out of myself for laughs, something that I'd learned to do pretty early on in my life.  Making people laugh to cover up how miserable you really are is a wonderful escape mechanism.  And I use it even today.

See, this is the kind of thing I remember about high school, boys that didn't like me, parties I never got invited to, dates I never went on, dances no one asked me to and people that never wanted to be my friend.  I remember feeling like an outcast every day I stepped foot on that campus. 

High school was just a day to get through, every day, so I could go home and not feel so exposed.  When I look at my yearbook I realize that high school wasn't for me.  Those weren't the best years of my life.  No, those started the day I left Spokane and went to college, and they've never stopped.

High school was the most painful experience of my life, up until last July when my Dad died unexpectedly.  I didn't get to say goodbye or tell him I loved him or thank him for everything he ever did for me.  I am still paying for that today.  Unfortunately my reunion weekend falls on that one year anniversary and I cannot relive two if the worst times in my life in three days.

I really don't want people to feel sorry for me, or think I want them to feel sorry for me, or think I want them to think I want them to feel sorry for me.  I'm just telling it like it is, another characteristic I picked up as a young teenager.  These are the reasons I don't want to go. 

I haven't talked to 99% of our graduating class since our all night senior party, and honestly I don't really remember much about that night or if I did in fact talk to anybody because my mom made me go, against my wishes, so I bribed my older brother into buying me booze so I could go drunk.  I figured that would make it survivable.  However, I hadn't really been drunk before so I didn't quite get that you really need to keep drinking to keep the buzz going.  Something you can't do at a well-chaperoned all night party.

I don't really give much of this a lot of thought to be honest.  I'm married, I have two kids, an awesome husband, and a great life.  High school was simply 3 years out of my nearly 39 year life and not the best three years as it is anyway.  I've always heard it said, "the best is yet to come."  So true, the best has been every day since. 


Anonymous said...

Oh girl, I didn't meet you until college, but I'm glad you survived High School because I have to tell you that you were a highlight in my life in our college years at UI in the AGD House. The sad truth is that I think there are quite a few people out there that have often felt like outsiders looking in on their own lives. There are so many beautiful and talented women out there that would say the exact same thing about their High School Years. I can't tell you how many hollywood interviews I have heard where the women say they were never invited to Prom. Just know that during those times that you felt alone, you were really in the company of other great women...just like yourself.

Lots of love to you,

~Paula (Your Alpha Buddy)

P.S. You are an awesome writer!!! I love to read your articles.

Sunlover Mom said...

Great posting, my proud beauty! You make me so proud. Paula says it far better than I - you were in terrific company and just didn't know it. However, there were a few boyfriends here and there, especially one I see smiling out at me with you in your senior prom photos. What a gorgeous girl - in and out. I love ya gal.


Anonymous said...

Here's what I remember of you from high school: I was jealous of you for 3 things. You had the courage to try out and become a mascot and drum major. You were tall and thin, and I always felt short (hunching my shoulders did not help this). And probably the one that stung the most at 16, the boy I had a crush on had a crush on you. (I think his locker was by your locker, too: ah, you even had better proximity!)
During high school, I think everyone felt so alone and insecure and out-of-place that no one realized that so many other people felt the exact same way.
My greatest terror was who to talk to before school: halls crowded with students and everyone in cliques and I used to hide out in the library or the newspaper room.
I never even considered attending any of the reunions (was there a 5th or 10th?- I don't even know- but I have an almost daily reminder of the 20th thanks to Facebook). I did have some killer fantasies of what the reunions would be like when I was actually in high school, but now high school seems so far away that I can't even imagine having anything in common with the most of the people on the "attending" list... although, maybe kids and aging and marriages and careers are the great equalizers, and I'd be pleasantly surprised...
Keep up the great blog!
PS: re: the senior party: I was made to attend because my dad signed up to chaperone. The embarrassment was when I arrived home hours before he did because even though he didn't know anyone when the night began, he wound up out to breakfast afterward with a group of other parents while I rushed home as soon as they let us leave the Y.