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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Class Reunion, Why Go?

This is the question, isn't it? For anybody who's gotten an email or phone call out of the blue, this is the question. Why go? (or the longer form; "why would I want to revisit that?!") I think for many, and I count myself in this group, High School was traumatic. Ya, it was. And it was for so many reasons, so many different reasons for so many people. But that begs the question, could it have been any better?

Go with me for a minute here. You get 1500 kids collected together, 5 days/week, 8 hours/day. None, or very few, of them have much of an idea of Self. They don't know who they are, what they're doing, how to relate to people. They're running on a mix of instinct and hormones, trying to lay down some sort of map of the world. And they're doing that while being put under pressure to learn Spanish and Math and English and History, Social Studies, etc. That's quite a mix. It's going to be difficult. Can you hold somebody or something accountable for that? Blame them or it? I doubt it. But it's yours, you can own it.

We all made our share of poor decisions that were in hindsight clearly "mistakes". Some people made the sorts of decisions that turn your car upside down, oops. Some people made the sorts of mistakes you can't see. Most of those poor decisions hurt somebody. And if you consider that 6 degrees of separation connects most of the world, it's probably something more on the order of 2 degrees of separation between you and any other '88 alum. This makes it highly likely that you hurt or were hurt by somebody at high school. It likely means that we're not talking about one event, but many. In some cases, many many. And what do we remember? Extremes usually. Peak experiences, good or bad, that we tend to turn over again and again in our heads. Wishing you had done something differently is essentially just cementing a memory for the long term.

And this isn't to say bad things didn't happen at school. It's just to say that memory is a funny thing that's used to keep us grown ups from making the same mistakes we made in high school. So we're right back to that first question; why go back?

Because the most incredible thing happened to you in those four years. You got wrenched from a pleasantish little childhood into a fairly hostile adolescence and then spit out towards the adulthood you're in today. The only other people who were around for that are your fellow classmates. And every one of them has a story. You're not just a little curious about how those stories go?

A friend of mine recently went to his 20th reunion, and the class president gave some crappy speech full of clich├ęs and nothing much of significance. But then a random housewife, mother of 3, living on farmland out the back of Bourke, stepped up and said some things of significance. She said (and I wasn't there, so I paraphrase...) "I don't care if you were a junkie for six years after high school, or if you got married right away, had three kids and got a divorce and are on your third marriage, or you're a merchant banker who owns a private island in the Seychelles. I'm not here to judge. I'm just interested in your stories. I want to hear your stories. I want to hear what happened."

It's so rare that we get a chance to find out what happened in real life. A reunion is a chance to get a bit of that perspective. And then, walk away. You just walk away. You can't just take away what you like, I mean that's the tough part. If you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound. Once you do show up, all sorts of things can float to the surface. But so be it. Better out than in my Great Grandmother used to say (when one would sneak out, eh, ya, maybe too much information).

===== 2nd try, if you're still reading ===========

Why go? It was four years, a long time ago. It was a class of about 300 people. Of those people, maybe fifty I'd known from primary school, another fifty from Jr. High. Now there's about six that I'm in any semblance of contact with. So, what's the draw?

Well, for me, six is a large number. I'm hardly in contact with six friends from all the years after that. But more importantly, those six people, and the 300 others I went to school with, were there when it was all happening. We all hatched together. We made a lot of mistakes together. We gave ourselves a right royal hard time, trying to figure out how to be a person in the world.

Now, you can't go back. You can't relive or rewrite or deny all that went down. Some people probably wish one or all of those. I do. I wish I could have done it differently. But I couldn't have. And there's a lot of me that still does the stupid things I learned to do in high school.

That's why I think it's somehow essential to walk up to that past, to have a look at all the vectors people took, to try to track back where I came from and why I'm here. It's where we all came from. I don't have any great goal in mind about what will be "achieved". I think it's more like a mulching of memory.

A reunion is an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane, which for me has become a sort of shabby alley (not quite a "boulevard of broken dreams"). Not sure if the shine going off is due to the excesses of the time or the excess time, but I've lost a lot of recollection. And our memories, our past, is something worth keeping, in any form it takes, if for nothing else to help us to grock who we are now.

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