Members of my high school class organized a 25 year reunion at a bar on the Lower East Side during Thanksgiving weekend. I skipped all prior reunions, and felt bad about each and every time. Then the next reunion came around, and I skipped it anyway.
This time around, I thought I should finally attend. I was reluctant, because… I wasn’t sure if I would have a good time, plain and simple. Many years ago, maybe a decade, I met up with a bunch of my former elementary school classmates from our little town, and I had a fantastic time. Those are the people I had known the longest, and shared deep memories of our times up through 6th grade.
Once we got to junior and high school, everyone got separated. I rarely saw my former hometown classmates, and while I did have a few core friends from that era, I never felt like I belonged with the larger crowd. They had money, and they all hung out together. My family didn’t have money, and I suppose I didn’t know or do enough to try to be more outgoing and fit in with all the cool kids. Most of my interactions were focused on the various clubs and orchestra.
I should have worked out to be more outgoing, gone to parties, etc, etc, but my parents would never have let me go, and besides, I was a shy and self-conscious teenager.
So, 25 years later, I thought I’d show up finally. And you know, I basically wandered around, trying to recognize people. Yes, I saw a few, and we caught up briefly and we all declared it was so good to see everyone.
Cool cool cool.
Later I did find some of the old elementary school crew, and it was so nice to see them. The laughs and smiles came natural. Unfortunately and as expected, none of the non-hometown friends I grew up with showed up.
I stayed around for the group photo, surveyed the scene one more time, said some goodbyes, and left the premises. I feel like I’ve lived a completely different life, become a different person, made completely different friends, in the past 25 years. Once I left high school, moved away from everyone to go to university, everything changed.
I closed one book, and moved onto the main story of my life. When I looked around that room, I saw aspects and touchpoints of my old life, and I could recognize those memories briefly as though looking through a haze. But I barely remembered them. The next 25 years led me down a different life — living life away from parents with a feeling of independence, my first relationships, love and heartbreak, internships, a career, international travel, marrying the love of my life, starting a family…..
And even more heartbreak.
Most of all, I’m not that shy awkward teenager anymore. I become more than I was before. I looked back that Saturday night, and I don’t recognize it anymore. I don’t recognize that version of me anymore.