Reflections on My 30 Year High School Reunion

July 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

Unlike some of you, I remember damn little from high school, which maybe isn’t surprising given how long it has been. If our lives are broken down into what we can remember, the years up through high school represent only the first third of our remembered existence — that first third in which our roots warped and determined our future growth.

Out of the life plants growing out of the same teenage educational soil, an entire ecosystem has evolved. Maybe that is the compulsion I feel to visit the Class of ‘81’s FaceBook page — to see what has grown, what remains stunted, what has died. Our lives now range from the resplendent to the barren, from the ornate to the impoverished in ways that could not have been imagined 30 years ago.

Which doesn’t quite explain why most of what I see and read on the FaceBook page makes me so angry. Maybe my roots from high school twisted me into a bitter 48 year old, but I don’t think so. The anger I feel is against the nostalgia, against the yearning for past connections that have withered into the mulch that fertilized our current incarnations.

Nostalgia —  a convenient denial mechanism of the present.

And what is more teenage than feelings of isolation, fear and outsider-ness? Every time I see the push to “find” everyone, I wonder — what if they don’t want to be found? What if they want absolutely nothing to do with the people that treated them like shit in high school? And oh yes, look at that puffy, stupid hair styles we all had.

Statistics are bastards, because the Class of 81 is not immune to them. We can recognize  the 12 deaths, but what about the deaths of children and spouses? What about the mental illness, adultery, divorce, imprisonment, alcohol and drug addiction, unemployment (quite possibly at least 10% of our class right now, probably more)? In other words, no special treatment for our minions. And oh yes, didn’t the D-ettes look hot in those boots.

The trivialities of high school pale in the face of killing and war. I’ve had the great honor to talk to former inhabitants of the halls that teemed with our teenage hierarchy about their experiences killing. Killing someone changes a person. I found my pacifist self struggling against the knowledge that killing can be a simple, necessary act coming from a simple choice — kill or be killed. I listened and if I had found myself in the same situation — I would have killed too. And oh yes, isn’t it funny guys wore short shorts playing sports in the early 80s.

Maybe my rage against nostalgia is simply a rage against those who seem to find solace in an escape to the past, a solace that feels as inaccessible to me as a high school clique. I find no comfort in the naive, arrogant, self-righteous 18 year old that was me.

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