Wednesday, August 08, 2012

High School Flashback!

Wanted to share my latest column that appeared in the Newburyport Daily News today...

My high school reunion is coming up in October.

I don’t want to reveal the number of years it’s been since I graduated, but just to give you a general idea, my friends and I were watching “Dynasty” on television, going to see movies like “Porky’s” and listening to “My Best Friend’s Girl” by The Cars on an eight-track tape. Our go-to outfit included stirrup pants and sweaters with those really over-sized shoulder pads. Add a neon Swatch and some Keds and we had quite a look. You might call it Madonna meets Molly Ringwald with a little Sarah Jessica Parker mixed in — prior to her “Sex and the City” era.

Reunions always bring to the surface that familiar emotion: sheer terror.

It’s like you immediately revert back to your hormone-charged, intellectually vapid teen years when you cared more about how you looked than, well, anything. Let’s just say I missed the whole Cold War era worrying about whether my clogs matched my Chino pants. I didn’t know who was president when I was in high school, but I could tell you which boy was the high scorer on the basketball team. Well, I could have back then; Lord knows I can’t remember now.

So it’s surprising when that same feeling comes back so many years later. What will I wear? What will people think? Will I look old? Will I recognize everyone? Will the food be any good? Look, in high school we thought a lot about food and that is one thing that hasn’t changed. The point is those same adolescent insecurities can creep up on you at any age and it tends to make you realize how fragile our egos really are. Every few years I still dream that I forgot my high school locker combination — and then I remember that our lockers didn’t have combinations.

Truth be told, no one is as cool as they pretend to be in high school. Everyone is navigating the same shark-infested waters just trying to figure out how to leave with a diploma, a couple of good friends and at least a shred of dignity.

We have all spent the last some-odd years creating lives. We’ve established careers, had families and pursued passions. And yet, when we come together as a group, all of that fades into the background and our one common denominator rises to the surface: We are all getting dreadfully old. OK, that aside, it’s that we all cut our teeth in the same place. We took driving lessons together, muddled through chemistry together, cried over a breakup together and got our first paying jobs together. (Bill Gates rule No. 5: “Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.” No, but picking tobacco really stunk.)

We journeyed together through some formative years. We looked to each other to establish what was “normal,” how to fit in and how to ultimately move forward in a world we knew virtually nothing about. And if you’re anything like me, still know nothing about.

Still, we made out OK. Each of us took a different path and some of us chartered new ones. Some of us stayed close to home and others moved thousands of miles away. But, beneath the surface, as different as our lives might look, we all share common roots.

The heart of what makes us who we are started in those hallways and classrooms and even on those team buses. (Although I won’t go into detail about the buses.)

I guess going to your high school reunion is a little like looking into a mirror. The people there will know us in a way no one else ever can. They have a window into our lives that no other person, not even our own spouses, can access — which many might argue is a good thing. Regardless, these are the only people who might not know what we do for a living or how many kids we have, but they can remind us where we came from. And we all need a little of that from time to time.

Now, if I could just stop having those dreams about my locker combination.

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