The High School Reunion: Words to strike fear in the heart of some and instill joy in others, and for me evoking a confusing combination of anticipation and dread.
I agonized over whether or not to go to my high school reunion this weekend. From a purely logical perspective, there were compelling reasons not to bother. Most of the people I was close to then I’m still in regular contact with now. The rest of my graduating class are for the most part very nice people but as we were fairly indifferent to one another in high school, I can’t imagine that having changed now…and in the cases where that has changed, it feels vaguely disingenuous – You’re hugging me? We hug now? Okay... <awkward>
I know I’m being unfair to the many of my classmates who actually are genuinely happy to see me and catch up. The bigger issue is that this whole reunion thing, in my irrational and emotional brain centre (let’s call it the “emoshgula”), is all tied up with all the internal and external markers by which we measure “success” in life.
I went to an all-girls’ private school that prides itself on its students’ measurable achievements both during high school and after graduation. The currency of success during my high school career was high marks, and with those I was flush. Much to the chagrin of my math and physics teachers, I took my academic prowess and poured myself heart and soul into Bachelors’ degrees in Child Studies and Social Work (Click here for appropriate sound effect).
As if that wasn’t bad enough, I then turned down early acceptance to an MSW program in order to become…horror of horrors…a stay-at-home mom (again, this requires a sound effect). In that world of titles and initials – Dr., Esq., M.Sc., Ph.D., Patron, Benefactor – Karyn Pickles, SAHM doesn’t feature highly in the alumni communiques.
***I’m going to interrupt myself for a moment for a very brief discussion of privilege. In this post I am describing, from my own perspective, the world that I inhabited in my middle and high school years and that, to a lesser extent, I still inhabit. It is a world of enormous privilege in which each and every one of us carried a huge invisible backpack containing, among other things, the knowledge that 1. We had the means to attend the university of our choice, as long as we produced the necessary grades; 2. Those grades would be reasonably easy to achieve with the extra help and tutoring available to us; and 3. Our university applications would be supplemented by the rich extracurricular offerings the school offered, ironically bolstering our chances of earning the scholarships that most of us didn’t actually need. It is a world that is unfamiliar to the vast majority of the North American population, let alone the world. This is not to belittle my fellow graduates’ hard work in earning those prestigious titles, but to acknowledge that we were very fortunate to have the head start and freedom to choose the paths that we did.*** <climbs back off soapbox>
Where I have found myself in life is for all intents and purposes the antithesis of everything that my high school prepared and expected me to do. It doesn’t even register on their scale of success because they have no rubric for joy and self-fulfillment.
The trouble is that while I know that I wouldn’t change a thing, as soon as I walk through that high arched doorway, all my self-confidence drains away like Bastian passing through the gateway to the Fountain of the Water of Life. (This is a obscure reference but it’s oh so very fitting. Here is a link to a really trippy website where you can clear up any confusion or just close your eyes and be transported straight back to the 80’s. You’re welcome!). I passed under that archway and was immediately once again the introvert who used cutting humour to hide the fact that she had zero self-esteem, and I giggled self-effacingly in response to questions, and answered, “Well, y’know, I have my 2 kids and I’m kind of a mommy-blogger…” twirling my hair like Cher in Clueless (okay, if we’re honest, I was more like Tai, pre-makeover).
Afterwards, as I exited the highway and head for home, that confidence came rushing back and I regretted the lost opportunities to reconnect as my authentic self. Even more than that, I was furious with myself for being so dismissive of my life choices when what I should have said was,
“I’m doing great! I have the two most amazing kids. I’m on a couple of boards of directors and I’ve really gotten into community theatre and music. I work from home and write a parenting blog (here’s my card!) and I’m just venturing into selling some of my handmade clothing and accessories (you should definitely check them out)! Funny, eh? It sure isn’t the path I would have imagined for myself [an undisclosed number of] years ago, but I couldn’t be happier. So what are you up to these days?”
I included 3 quotes in my graduating yearbook comment:
“Love is something if you give it away…you end up having more”
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less trodden by, And that has made all the difference.”
and “Second to the right, and straight on ’till morning.”They may have been cliched****, but at the risk of sounding sappy (TOO LATE, SCREAM MY LOYAL READERS!) boy howdy, did they all prove true.