That was my answer when asked if I was going to my 10-year high school reunion. It was partially true and partially a lie. I did decided that I would rather have my face rubbed off with a cheese grater than spend a weekend reminiscing with my fellow Belton High alums. If you had asked me to elaborate on my aversion to re-engaging the people from my youth, I’d have given you a spiel about the only people that go to those things were the popular, preppy kids that made my life miserable in High School. You’d probably correctly assume that I was a geeky nerd in High School. Hell, it’s not hard to make that leap considering I’m a geeky nerd now. If I was the protagonist in a reunion comedy, I’d like to think I would be Rick Moranis’s David Leary from Big Bully, going back to my hometown to face my personal demons in a series of improbable misadventures.
In the end, I’d have to admit that it wasn’t the case. I didn’t have a bully that tortured me into madness all through school. I did a good enough job of that myself. In fact, if I were to decide that facing my personal demons was more effective than outrunning them, I’d just have to spend some time in a dark bathroom staring at a mirror and peering deep into my own soul. I assure you, no body wants that to happen.
No, the real reason I decided not to go to my high school reunion was the hype. You see, Rick Moranis wasn’t the only geek to go back and make everyone say, “Look at him now!” If you spend any time with a Netflix subscription and an interest in reunion movies, you’ll start to notice that it is universally assured that the biggest geeks and losers in high school would be the most successful and sexy later in life. Even Romy and Michele ended up going home with the nerdy billionaire that had grown into the sexy young guy.
By all logic, I was supposed to spend my early 20s conquering the entire universe and then coming back and showing everyone that I had become someone important, special, and most importantly played by a much more handsome actor than I was as a kid.
That wasn’t me. It was a more flamboyant and charismatic nerd. I think he might own a small nation now.
Of course, those “Look at me now” movies are all part of the Generation X sentiment on human living. I’m not a member of Gen-X.
I’m a millennial.
Our reunion films aren’t about going home and proving ourselves. We know that we have nothing to prove to anyone. Our reunion films are about going home and finding ourselves again. If you want some examples of that, you can check out two of my personal favorites Garden State and Palo Alto, CA, if you want to learn more about that sort of things.
This realization lead me to mix my personal romantic comedy fetish, devastating neuroses, and deep day dreams of grandeur to create an elaborate fantasy of what my High School Reunion would be like.
It was July of 2011, and I had recently learned about the dangers of allowing Pinot and Merlot to get into a rumble in your stomach. I was actually starting to feel like I was in a pretty good place. I had friends nearby watching out for me, my debts were paid down, and I was putting money in the bank. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t sitting around and pining for love from a woman that would never return that affection. I was just a few weeks away from heading to Montana on a road trip with my older brother. I was exuberant with confidence. Really, I didn’t have a reason to not go to the reunion.
So, I imagined what would happen if I went, and that’s where things got sticky.
I’d walk into the bar on Friday afternoon, and despite having come from work that afternoon, I’d be incredibly suave and immaculately dressed in my best Chuck Taylors and maybe even a tie. I don’t have very high standards for “dressed up” these days. It mostly means “freshly laundered clothes.” Of course, if I’m being honest, “freshly laundered” might also mean “only worn once this week.”
Walking into the bar, I’d be struck with an immediate and overwhelming sense of Nostalgia. The kind of nostalgia you normally only feel during your last week of High School, which is exactly what these kinds of things are for. I’d look at the faces all around the room and see dozens of people I hadn’t even known I wanted to see until that exact moment. Deep inside, that part of me that was still a hopeless geek would turn to face the part of me that was brimming with confidence and say, “alright, you win.”
I’d be humorous, insightful, knowledgeable and wise.
I’d be charming and charismatic.
I’d spend the evening rewriting my personal narrative. I wouldn’t lie. I wouldn’t tell the people there that I’d spent years as a successful muckity-muck. I’d just take my life experiences and invert them from this melodramatic, depressing tale of self-loathing into these clever, humorous anecdotes of misadventure. I’d woo them with my eloquence and insight.
Over a few drinks, I’d rekindle a friendship with one woman I had known in high school. Our lives had separated us for a decade, and had been very different. We’d connect on a personal level, though, in a way we wouldn’t have been able to ten years before and by the end of the night, we’d be making plans to see each other again. We might even spend the night together and start something amazing and lasting.
That was the fantasy that played out in my head a couple of weeks before the reunion, and as the day drew closer and closer, I realized more and more that it was impossible.
I’m not charismatic or charming. My stories are depressing and melodramatic.
So, I didn’t go.
And that’s the lesson I learned from my reunion.
I chose to listen to my fear that nothing would happen, when my mind was telling me something great could happen.
Now, I just have to regret the possibilities.