Monday, June 16, 2014

20 Years ago, who I used to be...

20 years ago, today, I graduated from high school.

I may have just gasped audibly upon typing that sentence.

It doesn't seem real in some ways, as if there is simply no way that so many years have passed since that hot afternoon spent on the football field.

It doesn't even seem like it has been ten years since our ten year reunion, but all it takes for me to come drifting back to reality is one look at my youngest daughter.

She is 9.

She wasn't born when we went back a decade ago. I wasn't even pregnant with her yet, that wouldn't happen for another month or so.

I met my husband in high school. We were 15 and naive, clueless about what life would hold for us. 

I was nervous and awkward. I never really fit in with any one group of people, and if and when I ever did manage to find a group, it never lasted. I have faced some unsettling truths about who I am and who I was in those times and I lay the blame for my exclusion only at my own feet. I was equipped with a self destruct mechanism.

It's amazing what you can learn about yourself when you save shoeboxes full of notes people wrote to you. People who came and then went. It took me a long time to put them together properly, to order them as they needed to be, but I finally did it. The things I realized about myself weren't kind things. They weren't reassuring things. 

I was a broken person. I hurt a lot of people. I didn't mean to, but I did it, and it took me a very long time to face it all. 

I had reasons for being the way that I was, we all do...but reasons aren't excuses. 

Back then, my parents, fresh off their own 20th high school reunion, were struggling. It was a turbulent time in their marriage and in our family as a whole. The things that transpired between them aren't for me to say, they aren't a part of my story to tell, but suffice to say that I knew far more than I should have and it changed me. 

It hardened me. It made me bitter. It made me question the motivations of the people I shouldn't have. It made me push people away. It made me reckless and selfish at times. It made me tremendously self destructive. 

I own that. I own all of it. 

I've learned from it. I've learned from all of it.

When the chaos began to settle, I met him. The boy who would become a man who would become my husband and the father of my children. He accepted me, flaws and all, without question. I hadn't hurt him when I was in the place I had been, and he was a chance for me to do better. To be better. 

And we were. For a while. (someone please tell me you get the reunion reference there...)

The first ten years after graduation were filled with excitement and change and tragedy and hope. In that time, we'd endured a long distance relationship through the four years of college. For a year of that span, neither of us had a car. We emailed and talked on the phone until the bills were too high and rode trains and bummed rides. There were moments that I didn't think we would be able to survive that time.

Most people assumed we wouldn't last, probably because most couples like us fail. Four years apart at that time wasn't enough to break the bond though, and we came through it. 

We married just weeks after we graduated from college. Within two years, we'd been dealt first a cancer diagnosis. Then a positive pregnancy test. Then a dark room filled with whispers that told us our child had died. Then an infertility diagnosis. 

We all have our trials. We all have our tests. To have so many of them so close together so young, it changed us. It changed us both. Those changes weren't necessarily good ones.

Not long after all that, we would learn that the doctors were wrong...about that last part at least. We, against all odds, had been able to conceive.

Our son and his sister followed before that night ten years ago, when we went back to high school for the first and last time. 

Going to a high school reunion is a surreal and strange endeavor, at least such was my experience. Not having had a group to claim allegiance with, not really fitting in with anyone, I was alone more often than I was ever with anyone else. I had friends, sure, but not the way that other people did. To walk into a room of decades old groups of people still as close as they'd ever been, well, stung. I was still over there, in the corner, along the fringes. I hadn't yet made my peace with it. That would come later.

There were a few people that I was hoping would be there but weren't. More that I would have been content to never see again attended. You can be 27 years old and walk into a room where you feel like an acne ridden 14 year old outcast all over again. And I did. 

My husband was even more of an introvert back then, both in high school and at the reunion, than I ever was, and so we sat in solidarity, mostly in the corner. At least we had each other. When we left that night, we silently agreed that we never needed to go through all that again. 

And we meant it.

At the 10 year reunion.
In the ten years since that night, so much has changed. Facebook has, in a twisted way, replaced the whole idea of the reunion. We can reconnect with the people we wish to. We are reminded why we weren't friends with others. We can still be kept on the fringes, unwelcomed into the inner circles. We can muse about what happened to this person or that and actually know now. We can forge relationships that are entirely different with some than they ever were then when we realize we have more in common now. We can see things about each other, learn things about each other. 

We can wonder if there is really any necessity or utility with having a reunion at all. 

In those intervening ten years, I've learned a lot about my classmates that I didn't know in school, that I didn't know even ten years ago. Some from online interaction. A few from the things that I learned up close and personal in the tangible world of reality. Some are things I wish I had the power to un-know. Some are things that have irreversibly damaged relationships. Some are things that have ended friendships that had lasted decades prior to the unraveling.  

Some of them are people that I never have any desire to be in the same room with, or city for that matter, again. 

Fortunately we didn't have to struggle long with the decision of whether to go back this time or not. We now live 1,000 miles away instead of three hours. It is a massive undertaking to take this many people anywhere, even more so now that my parents are dead and gone and I don't have a home there anymore.

Since the last reunion, we moved away. Far away. We moved because we were still, in many ways, in far too many ways, young and naive and fell for the idea that things would be different, better, if we were just somewhere else. 

We were wrong. 

Oh, were we wrong. 

In those ten years, we didn't just move. We fell apart. We didn't run away from our problems. We relocated them and they grew and grew and grew

He changed. I changed. Again.

I lost both of my parents. 

We added two more children. We now have a third additional one on the way. 

He's changed. I've changed. 

More than that, we evolved.

We are finally the different people we imagined we'd someday be, the better people we always wanted to be, but the path to this place was rocky and unkind. There were far more times recently than there ever were in college when I was sure we wouldn't last. 

But we made it.

We're here.

I'm not who I was twenty years ago. Though my face bears some resemblance to that naive girl from back then, albeit with a few wrinkles now, the person inside doesn't much relate to who I was then. 

My husband isn't who he was twenty years ago either. This version of him is far more stable and grounded. He is more authentic and real. Incidentally, he looks almost nothing like that version of him used to.

We aren't naive anymore. 

We aren't those people anymore. 

They're just a part of who we were. 

Of who we used to be.

Neither of us has any desire to ever go back there again. 

Some people long for the past, they cling to the old stories. They reminisce and relive and regale.

Not me.

I'm good here.

As a postscript to this entry, I feel like I have to offer some kind of preemptive apology to my former classmates. This isn't about you, not at all. It's about me and my issues and my unwillingness to go back to that place. There are certainly many of you that I would love to see, there is no doubt. I just don't know that I can ever go back this way again. I hope you understand, I know that many of you already do. xo


  1. This resonated with me on every level. It is now 10years since I graduated, I'm still with the man I met when I was 15, married now for 7 years. I, for much the same reasons, simply couldn't face that reunion. Thank you for posting this. Your posts always seem to come at just the right time.

  2. After being anti-high school and hating nostalgia, I went to my 25th reunion with low expectations. I ended up having a good time.

    I think our present and future are much more of who we are.

    From a distance, you're a well rounded, intelligent woman and loving wife and mom who's figure enough of life, out.

    Congrats on a good 20.

  3. I feel you 100%. My 20yr reunion and I feel the exact same way that you do.

  4. Being a child from a military family before the internet and facebook, I envy that you have a reunion. I graduated from high school in Germany, knowing at graduation that I would likely never see anyone again. I went to 5 different high schools. Yes 5. I wish there was a reunion to go to even though I too am not the same person.

  5. It has been almost 30 years since I graduated from high school and I am thinking that although things have changed a lot, many things, especially about myself, have stayed the same.
    Love the photos!!


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