Reunions

personal

I’ve just been reminded — or, more precisely — reminded to please, pretty please donate money to — my upcoming 10-year undergraduate class reunion.

What really comes to mind, however, are some key lyrics from Chorus Line:

And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul…
And cried.
‘Cause I felt… nothing.

I have absolutely zero interest in going to my college reunion, and I still have a horrible nagging guilt about it, despite the less-than-stellar experience I had with my ten-year high school reunion.

For some strange reason, I had been eager to attend that reunion, but I ended up being sorely disappointed. People had seemingly transformed, well, very little at all. Jocks were simply more macho, the airheads were now pregnant or three-kid’d airheads, and boring, superficial folks were, well, still boring and superficial.

After this loser of a reunion, I asked myself two key questions:
1) What had I really expected, after all?
2) Had *I* really changed that little?

Indeed, it was the latter issue that caused me the most concern.

I thought I had changed. I was now a world-traveler… cultured, experienced, multi-degreed, and certainly more socially competent and better looking than I had been in high school (though admittedly, that wasn’t saying much).

I was also a better listener, and eager to learn about what my classmates had done with their lives… where they had been, where they were going.

But it turned out that most of the attendees were more interested in drinking and hanging with the same buddies they spent time with in high school… or, heck, for many of them, the same folks they continued to spend time with in all the years SINCE high school. I was, once again, an outsider.

They were no more interested in hearing about my adventures than they were wanting to tell me about where they were in their lives. It was as if time had practically stood still, and we were all plopped into this swank room just moments after my awkward high school years.

Indeed, the more things changed, the more things stayed the same. One particular fellow that had been a nemesis of sorts in high school had — perhaps unsurprisingly — become drunk and belligerent at the reunion. He staggered over to me and practically spat in my face, “Adam? aaaaddam?! You think you’re such hot stuff, eh? Well, I bet you’re a loser! And I’m somebody now!…” Fearing getting punched in the face, I consciously stiffled a laugh when I found out his somebody’ness stemmed from him living in the same small town we grew up in, working a menial job, and not having aged especially gracefully. He was somebody, indeed… somebody that reminded me how sorry I was to have paid the admission price and airfare to attend this otherwise wholly lackluster event.

About the only saving grace of the night was bittersweet. One kind woman, whom I didn’t even remember from my high school days, thoughtfully offered to give me a ride back to where I was staying, and before I arrived, she noted a bit wistfully, “Adam, you’re all right. I’m really sorry I didn’t get to know you better in high school.”

And I thought to myself… perhaps that was my problem. Back then, I had really not let myself get to know many of my fellow students, nor let them get to know me. Reunions are for rekindling old bonds, not making new ones, and… without having made all that many friends in high school, I just didn’t have much to work with in a one-night shot of glory.

From a positive perspective, the contrast was made starker given the wonderful friends I had made in graduate school and since then. “Single serving friends” as the movie Fight Club referenced, just couldn’t compare.

I fared a bit better socially in undergrad compared to high school. Still, however, most of the friends I have now stem from grad school, my career afterwards in Germany, and my four years so far in San Francisco. Of the few folks I still keep in touch with from undergrad, I don’t even have a very strong urge to travel halfway across the country to potentially see them in person.

So am I, after all, an anti-social loser? Should I indeed feel like a lout for not even giving a whit about my ten-year college reunion? Would I feel differently if I had a killer job or a trophy wife or a million dollar bank account, and if so, does that make me nearly as superficial as the cardboard cutouts I disdain from high school?

All I know is… right now, I have enough to look forward to without having to commit the time and emotional energy involved in looking back. Perhaps that’s a good thing, perhaps it’s just running away from my past. But I can’t fathom the means of changing how I feel.

I guess the only question remaining, then, is… how many others look at their reunions the same way I do? Is it a Geek thing? I wonder.

2 comments… add one
  • Matt Hendrickson Oct 25, 2003

    You know, Adam, I think all of us have felt what you are feeling at one time or another. I just recieved notice about my 10-year high school reunion coming up next year and it got me to thinking.

    What have I done with my life? When I graduated from high school back in 1994, I expected to go to SDSU, get a teaching degree, and be a high school social studies teacher and coach. Well, I did go to SDSU, eventually got my teaching degree, and did work as a teacher and coach. But as it turns out, I’m no longer in education.

    And I look at my classmates from high school. One just finished medical school and is starting her residency. Two are in law school and about to hit the big money. So if you take a look at where they are and where I’m at, it would seem that they have it better than me.

    But you know something? I’m happy with what I’m doing. It may not pay the best, but it beats puking my guts out from stress. And family? If it comes, great. If not, oh well.

    I’m planning on going, just to see my friends. And if anyone else give me guff, I’ll tell them to take a long walk off a short pier!

  • Jen Oct 27, 2003

    I think your analysis of the high school situation—and your lack of connection to those people—is spot on. And it’s not surprising. In high school and even undergrad, you interact with a ton of people who (a) don’t know who they are, (b) don’t know what they want, and (c) don’t know where they’re going, so there’s very little, really, to bond over, aside from superficial things like “Who’s your favorite rock star?”

    In undergrad, interests become honed. But especially in grad school and beyond, you’re in an environment where you’re surrounded by people with the same passions as you, which makes for a much richer experience. Perhaps you still don’t know exactly who you are, or where you’re going, but at least you have something deeper through which you connect. AND you have more of a chace to choose the kind of people you’re surrounded by, as opposed to being thrown into a group of randoms by some accident of geography.

What do you think?