Last weekend was the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the high school that I went to (well, the one that I went to for most of my high school career, as my family moved at the end of the summer before I was in grade ten). Reunions seem to evoke feelings of excitement in some, dread in others, and indifference in others still. Our reunion actually consisted of an entire weekend of events. The only events that I were interested in, really, were the talent show and a pub gathering, both taking place on the Friday night (the events overlapped, oddly enough). It was definitely a strange night; in some ways similar to the old days – in others, very different.
While a number of people spend high school in a clique of some kind, I spent mine kind of floating around. I was never the smartest, nor was I the most athletic; popularity was certainly not my forte. I was just a very skinny, nerdy guy who people knew as the guy who broke his leg (I was in a cast for a long time). I joined high school* at the beginning of grade ten, in Speyside, Ontario. The building in Speyside did not have the capacity to house our entire student body comfortably; thus, there were a number of chalets (the HCSB’s fancy name for portables). I think I was only at that location for a few months before we all moved to our new building on the outskirts of Milton – long enough to hear all the stories about the first couple of years in the tiny structure, gaining me a kinship with the others that had started their high school careers in that building.
I did my best in school. I had crushes, fell in “love”, had my heart broken, took part in some academic programs, went to school dances, participated in the annual talent show (inevitably performing some Monty Python skits) and made friends with lots of people. My unique view of authority allowed me to have an interesting relationship with most of the teachers there, some of whom encouraged me to do more. So in my last year, I exploded, participating in more activities than I had in previous years (possibly even the first four years of high school combined).
Graduation was an interesting affair. My status as an “inside outsider” (interestingly enough, Inside Out was my contribution towards the pool of names to be used for our school’s literary magazine) didn’t prepare me for the warm reception I received from the school play; nor did I ever expect to be nominated as a candidate for valedictorian (I deservedly lost to the better man who had been at Bishop Reding for the entire five years). I even won the spirit award. So, really, that last year made my high school experience a positive one overall.
Since graduation, I have kept in touch with a fair number of people from my high school. I have even managed to meet with them from time to time (especially this guy and this gal). I learned early in my frosh year at university that not everyone placed the same value on communication as I did (as twenty-two of the twenty-five letters that I mailed out within the first two months went unanswered) – but I eventually understood that it wasn’t really personal; we all just got very busy.
Facebook has certainly been instrumental in maintaining some semblance of contact with old friends – but really, it is a shallow tool that promotes the mindset of our younger years. Promises of meeting for coffee and get-togethers seem to be empty, for the most part. What’s to blame? There are a host of reasons (I’m sure the readers have their own, as well – as do I). While irksome, it’s not really surprising. The relationships that are maintained exist because we wish them so. My desire to meet up with people is partially based on curiosity rather than any kind of behaviour that hints at some kind of validation-seeking.
Since high school, I have managed to attend (and perform at) a tenth anniversary “reunion”; I have also attended a performance at one of my teacher-friends’ new placements and caught up with a number of others at a pub after the show. I enjoy those times because everyone that is out does not seem to be there out of a sense of obligation. Rather, they are present because they have a genuine desire to be there.
It was inevitable that there would be something grand for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of our school. Invitations started being sent well in advance, calling everyone to attend a talent night at the Milton Centre For the Arts. As time went on, other events sprang up around that one, forming a weekend full of activity all centered around our former lives.
I’m not sure why I didn’t sign up for the talent night. It was not because of shyness or anything along those lines. I just didn’t feel like I would have enough time to prepare something that would have been on par with the other high-calibre performers. A lot of these folks are well-established in the entertainment industry and have made great names for themselves – why muddy up the stage with my amateur wailings? There was no compelling reason.
Why did I want to go? For the most part it was because I wanted to see a small number of people that I haven’t seen in a while. So, I dragged Mrs. J with me to the event** and was met with blaring music when I walked through the entrance way. A section of the current high school band was playing in the main hall of the facility (which was not necessarily conducive to having conversations at a reasonable volume). I also immediately bumped into one of my old (tall) friends. We said our hellos and each wandered in our own direction while my wife went out to grab a bite to eat.
For a brief moment, I wondered why I was there; it was nothing specific – just a mild feeling of discomfort and possibly dread. No one likes the idea of being judged, I suppose. There will always be a part of me that remembers being the skinny, insecure, nerdy guy who broke his leg – that guy felt pretty lonely back in the day.
As if on cue, I ran into one of my former English teachers; any negative feelings immediately vanished as we chatted and caught up. Then the floodgate opened; I kept running into people that I enjoyed catching up with. There is something almost magical about meeting up with someone that you enjoyed spending time with in the past. The torch of friendship is lit once more, but with a different source. Both parties are older, and have years worth of different experiences that have shaped each of their lives.
The show was awesome. The MC, James, did a great job hosting the event. The show was not without its hiccups, but James is a pro and rolls with the punches like nobody’s business; needless to say, many laughs were heard in the auditorium of the Arts Centre.
Afterward, a good number of us met at an Irish Pub*** to spend more time chatting (over another loud band, funny enough) and chilling out. Cameras were out and there was actually a serious portrait setup for people that wanted to have photos taken with old friends.
I found it interesting that most people kind of slipped back into their former roles and into their High School cliques. I was no exception, slipping into the familiar raiment of the inside outsider, casually observing people. Even though two decades had passed, it wasn’t hard to figure out who each person was (even the people that I wasn’t connected to on Facebook at the time). It was amusing to have the drop on people – I’m fairly convinced that a good number of people couldn’t figure out who I was! And why should they? I was relatively unremarkable in high school.
I’m glad that I went to the reunion. It was nice to catch up with some people and rekindle friendships with others. Sometimes, we encounter others that we are not ready (mutually) for a friendship with. When years pass and experiences add up, something in the equation changes, allowing us to mesh in a way that we didn’t before. I’m looking forward to the next reunion, whenever that me be – this time I’ll drag Dave out to it.
This experience has also given me some ideas for new posts – so stay tuned!
* – I went to a high school in Brampton for the first year of my secondary education.
** – I honestly don’t recall why I thought this was a good idea. Later in the evening I felt horrible because she was probably bored out of her skull for most of the evening.
*** – Not really. It seriously doesn’t look that much like an Irish pub from the outside.