Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who says you can't go home?

To go or not to go?
That is the question that millions of adults agonize over at some point in their lives. It is a thorny dilemma, and there is no simple answer. The entire issue brings intense emotions bubbling up to the surface of our consciousness. We feel powerless to make a decision. Should we or shouldn’t we? We seek help from those family members and friends who have gone before us, but they can’t guide us. Ultimately, the decision must come from deep within our own psyche. There’s no getting around it; the invitation to your high school reunion has arrived.
            A year ago, I made the mistake of registering on the Facebook website. I say that this was a mistake for two reasons. The first reason is that the site is quite frankly addictive. I am hooked. I really do have other things I need to be doing, but instead of working, I’m logged onto Facebook. Oh sure, I can dress it up and call it “social networking,” but what I’m actually doing is chatting with friends and playing games. I need my daily fix. Soon, I’m going to need help. I just hope there’s a “Facebook Anonymous” group I can join. I see you nodding knowingly. I’ll send the link to your Facebook page.
            The other reason joining Facebook was a mistake is that I am now in the horns of the very dilemma I alluded to earlier. About 20 years ago, I moved away from the town where I grew up, and I didn’t leave a forwarding address. Needless to say, I have never received an invitation to a high school reunion. I must admit that this has never actually bothered me, if indeed it occurred to me at all. I felt no lack, no deep yearning to reconnect with my past.
            At least, that’s what I thought before one of my classmates found me on Facebook, and linked me to the information about our upcoming 30th high school reunion. Yes, it has been 30 years since I graduated from high school. Yes, that’s a long time. In addition to making me feel ancient, once I clicked the link I was immediately confronted with images of “the good old days”.
            My sudden desire to reconnect with my past was considerably dampened when my yearbook picture scrolled across the monitor. The fact that I actually wore my hair like that in public and that the image of me wearing my hair like that was saved for posterity and posted for anyone to see was downright horrifying! Seeing myself as I had been stripped away the outer layers of self-assurance and wisdom I’d spent 30 years developing and exposed the core of angst and lack of self-confidence I had when I was 17. Truly, it was a scary moment. Perhaps not Janet Leigh-in-the-shower-scene scary, but it was uncomfortable just the same.
            High school was not the worst time in my life, but looking back, those four years certainly weren’t the best. Remember the overwhelming stress of trying to figure out what you wanted to do for the rest of your life? I would be a lawyer, a nurse, an accountant, a teacher, for-ev-a. What if I messed up? No one ever suggested that by the time my 30th reunion would come around, I would have changed careers at least four times. As Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote so succinctly, “Change is certain” and I have proven him correct. (No – thank you very much – he didn’t write that in my yearbook. If he had, this would be our 230th reunion. Very funny…)
            Perhaps even more stressful than thoughts of the future was the task of “finding your own identity”. If I asked you to sum up your relationship with the rest of the student body at your high school, you would invariably give me one of these two answers:
            I was one of the popular kids.
            I was not in the popular group.
Now I have to ask you another question. When was the last time you referred to yourself as “popular” or “not popular”? Um, that would be 30 years ago for me. We mostly outgrow that egocentric need to be universally loved, thank goodness. But while we’re in that phase of development, life is anything but copacetic. (I assume that the strain of trying to stay popular was as difficult as not being popular at all, but I don’t know that first-hand. I was a nerd back when nerds weren’t cool.)
            Because I’m one of those people who have a half-empty glass, it’s the painful memories about high school that surface first. But if I was forced to be honest, I would have to admit that I have great memories of high school as well. The other members of the marching band always had my back. Thinking of the times we got thrown out of the local Pizza Hut after football games still make me laugh. Yes, there are people I haven’t seen in a long time that I would like to see again. After all, we shared our lives for 4 years and we will always have that bond. I’d really like to go to the reunion. OK, I will go. I’m glad to have that settled. Regis, that’s my final answer.
            But…I’d have to buy a plane ticket and pay for a hotel room. That would be expensive and I don’t have the money right now. I also don’t think there’s enough time to diet between now and then, and I certainly wouldn’t want them to see me this fat. No, I’m not going and that’s that.
            So there you have it. You want to know if I’m going to my 30th high school reunion? Maybe. Ask me tomorrow….

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