Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stepping in What Was

This past weekend, I was swallowed by a time machine that took me back to 1989 in the form of my twenty-year reunion. The decision to go and the thoughts that preceded the event all revolved around the chance to take stock of my journey, more than any concerns about what others thought of me. I wasn’t worried. I didn’t obsess about what to wear. Actually, I didn’t really think too much about the reunion until I was on my way there.

I remember high school as an extremely busy time, a time filled with insecurities and the sense that I had to protect myself. My time was primarily spent in theatre-related activities and the general amount of work required to both do well and avoid parental wrath. I was not popular but didn’t have trouble making friends.

Walking into the first night’s event—a get together at a restaurant bar—my stomach didn’t flutter at all and it was fun to be with one of my best friends (who also graduated my year). What I discovered upon entering was that my classmates looked great, their smiles were easy, and the conversation unstinted by the passage of time. There was an openness and confidence in not just myself but in the classmates I talked to. Our culture’s obsession with the negatives of aging misses a valuable truth: it really does get better. By the twenty-year reunion, we are ourselves. The way we are perceived today matters so little compared to when we lived in the closed ecosystem called high school. We live all over the country (some in foreign countries). Some are married, some aren't. Some have children, some don’t. Some have travelled, some still will. Our dreams have changed, but we are much more interesting now than we were then.

The second night, the dressy affair, provided some opportunities to meet up, but on the whole was a let down, mostly because the music overpowered the ability to catch up with people. And many of the friends I had in high school were either in different years or they didn’t show. Reunions aren’t built to make new friends, only to reconnect with old friends, so as the night wore on, I was ready to let the evening go.

And then I realized that my readiness to return from my time travel had more to do with one of the lessons I’ve learned from my writing. Writing has taught me about the value of today. For years and years, guilt over the past, missed opportunities, and questionable decisions, prevented me from going after my writing goals. The past worked its dark magic to swallow many of my todays and tomorrows. But now I know that today is the only best day we will ever have in our lives. It isn’t romanticized or dramatized the way past triumphs and failures tend to be. It isn’t dreamy and filled with doses of fantasy the way the future is. Today is the only day in which we can act, that we have power over at all; today is the only day that matters.

So, even though the reunion was enjoyable and I had the chance to reconnect with some of the people I cared about back in the day, I found myself flinching away from 1989 and all the years in between then and now, and leaning toward today. And I am so excited about today that I can hardly stand it.

Each day just a little farther on the path. Each day just a little more the person I want to be. Each day, even the crummy ones, exactly as it should be, complete with the lessons to get me further along in my own journey (that conveniently has nothing at all to do with competing with anyone else). Life is an individual sport (even if married and familied). Who we are, what we have to achieve, and our journey are our own and the way we feel about ourselves can only be personally achieved.

We live, we learn, we continue. And I am grateful to be alive to continue. And that is what a reunion can remind you. It isn’t the clothes you wear, the shoes (though I am quite smitten with my shoes), or the big hair you had in the senior photo (the five inches I gained in my heels this time was gained by my vertical hair in 1989). Those things really pale when we approach the event with a grateful heart. And how can we not be grateful to have another today.

Some of the lovelies about the event:
  • Reconnecting with a friend who came to the reunion hoping to find me. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so special.
  • Hearing a beautiful man confess to my best friend that he had a crush on her in the ninth grade. That was a true gift when my best friend, like myself, didn’t get a lot of attention in school.
  • Hearing how I was described by a friend to her boyfriend as the most real person she’d ever known. We rarely hear ourselves described and that was a moment I won’t forget.
  • Eating my weight in sushi with friends that I didn’t lose contact with over the past twenty years.
  • Getting to see a high school friend I just found a couple months ago and realizing that our friendship is still strong and has decades of life in it.
  • Seeing how much more fun and crazy the thirty-year reunion was across the hall. They rocked!

Quote for the Day by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Little by little, one travels far.”

5 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

What a lovely post! Makes me wish I'd been able to get to my hs reunion :)

I think you're right about our individual journeys along our paths. I do feel stronger and better able to take that next step each and every day. It's such a joy to be moving forward with family, friends and memories to help us along.

DebraLSchubert said...

So glad you had a good time! I can't vouch for my 20th since I didn't attend, but my 30th was a complete kick in the arse. Pure, unadulterated fun!! So, here's to ten years from now. And, more importantly, here's to today. ;-)

Frankie said...

Dudette. You left out the part about how SERIOUSLY hot you looked. (Leave it to me to drop the IQ of the conversation down a notch, right?)

I'm glad you went, but I like the air of serenity you've acquired lately; it suits you well.

Also good: not having that bobbed haircut anymore. It was fine then, but I like you better with long hair.

Glynis said...

Lovely post, thanks.
I organised our 'we are 40', school reunion. I was a middle of the road student, but that night I realised how much I had changed. Those I looked up to, I could no longer be in their company for more than a few seconds, and those who I had considered weak, were now so interesting.

Indigo said...

There is that question that always gets asked, "If you could change your life what would you change?". People tend to get weirded out when I say nothing. You see, I've had a horrendous childhood, abusive boyfriends and now I'm deaf.

I also like who I am today. I would of never become who I am had I not had to deal with life on life's terms.

Loved your analogy on writing for today. No regrets, it's the only way to live and write. (Hugs) Indigo

P.S. I came by way of Debra, she's a wonderful friend.