Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Class Reunion...In Reality

So, briefly said, I sucked it up and attended the last few hours of my 10 year reunion, much to the request of a dear - and highly inebriated - friend. What the heck? Free beer, right?

I walked in, and upon scanning the fifty or so faces in the room, I didn't see a single one I felt all that comfortable approaching. It was quickly concluded that the above-mentioned friend was in the mens' room...potentially "making more room" for beer.

A small round table surrounded by five female classmates shared polite hello's. One of the gals at this table I would have never called close, but we got along well, as did our brothers, and she greeted me with a hug. OK, ice breaker...check. She and I exchanged the basic info...kids, job, home, etc. Then moved on. Aaron and I played wallflowers for another minute or two, scanning the room once again, until above-mentioned friend managed his way out of the mens room. I finally relaxed at this point.

It was pointed out to me that liberals still made a great minority in the group. The lack of shock balanced out the level of funny. There was a great many people I never had the chance to say a word to, and I'm pretty OK with that.

At one point, there was some drunken discussion about a class orgy, and at the 15 year reunion we could bring all the 5 year olds and play "who's your daddy?" The friend who started this conversation is a classic freckled redhead, so you can imagine the jokes that wrote themselves. Thankfully, I've come to learn that this man's wife is one of the coolest people ever.

Throughout the night, a few more people approached Aaron and I, some of which I expected, others I was pleasantly surprised by. Aaron managed to connect with a classmates boyfriend, which is good since I kept accidentally ditching him. (Thanks for taking it stride, sweetie!) Much of my cynicism went away once I was asked this question; "Well, are you happy?" Which I met with a resounding "Hell yeah!" "Well, that's all you need, then."

The night closed with a very tipsy, yet very sweet compliment. I know he's reading this blog, so he knows what was said. (You do remember, right?) To those who took the time for me Sunday night, both expected and not, thank you. There is hope for this world yet.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Class Reunion...in my head

My ten-year class reunion is coming up this weekend, and straight up, I won't be there. The decision had been debated for months before a date was even set, but having to work that night pretty much sealed the deal. Disappointed? Not really. Curious? Hell yeah.

I graduated with approximately 80 people, a hearty sized class for Oostburg High. But the people in my graduating class who genuinely gave a damn about me, and took time out of their life to show me, the number is somewhere in the single digits.

On the other side of the coin, I'm damn proud of where I am today. I'm happily married with one kick-ass daughter and two stepsons that, while I occasionally would like to send them to Mars, are two guys I am genuinely proud of. I'm proud of what I have done for the community, whether it be Earthfest, being involved politically, and even helping a minority religion thrive in Sheboygan. I love my life, end of story. Would I like to rub it in a few faces? Hell yeah!

But I'm not convinced they would see it that way. I am back at Pizza Hut. I'm still fat (or shall we say, "fluffy"). I don't have tons of money or a newer car. To me, these things don't matter. But all my hard work isn't what the status quo says it takes to be successful.

There's another thing hanging out there. There was one classmate who was about as much of an outcast as one could be. He made himself that way, and he knew it. He wasn't out to make friends. If you were one of the few who didn't piss him off, you were alright. He idolized Andy Kaufman (look him up, it explains a lot), wore an "I'm with Stupid" shirt for our senior group picture - fashioned from a Hanes white tee and a Sharpie marker - and he attempted to interview people at the school entrance with an old tape recorder. What many don't know, he was a huge success in his efforts with the OHS theatre, both on and off stage. He was nominated for student of the month two or three times, each time being denied by our former gym teacher principal. I was one of the few who didn't piss him off.

Over the last two years or so, we stayed in scattered contact via email while he wandered the planet. Upon a return trip to Wisconsin, he asked to meet up with me to show me something from high school that would "show some insight about our classmates." During Junior and Senior years, he put a box in our history teacher's classroom which was for "Suggestions for ______". When you put yourself out there like this, and happen to be the class outcast, there is some preparation that needs to be made. But the level of cruelty is reminiscent of what likely caused the Columbine shooting and many like it.

This man handed me an envelope filled with folded up pieces of ten year old notebook paper, and what I read was beyond words. "I'd rather die than be a freak like you," was the one that cut the deepest. And according to him, this was merely a taste.

So, why dig up old dirt? People change, right? Well, sort of. I'm a believer that anyone can change...if they want or feel they need to. In reality, most people become a more grown-up version of what they were in high school. A version with more responsibilities but more opportunity to be what they are. And they're generally OK with that. This rings true for me. By the time I graduated, I knew the winds of change were blowing, I just had no clue what they were telling me. Clarity brought me to the self I am now. The slackers find jobs that pay the bills, but bear minimal responsibility. The over-achievers use their college degrees for their career, and deservedly earn the fruits of their labor, but still tend to bear that "I'm a step above many" mentality, though they keep it filtered and tucked back. The list goes on.

I don't believe the people who wrote these horrible things would do so again if given the chance. But it's not to say they wouldn't think along those lines. It becomes a passing thought, you scoff to yourself, and you move on. That's the mature version of what happened ten years ago.

All I really want to know is, has anyone really figured it out? Would these people genuinely regret what they said/wrote. Of course they would, if you told them it nearly lead to self-inflicted gunshot wounds (which it did). Gods forbid you have that on your conscience! But if you showed someone what they wrote ten years ago, would they really regret it, with nothing but their own feelings to work with? I'm not convinced. Forgive me for my cynicism, but I'm waiting to be proven wrong. Perhaps at our 20th...