High School 2.0

I wasn’t going to do a post on this because it seemed personal and more inconsequential to the outside world than my previous posts. None of this information is revolutionary. Also, it makes me feel like a huge dork and waaaaay too vulnerable…which is exactly why I decided that I needed to share it anyway.

I recently went to my 10-year high school reunion…

I waited until the absolute last minute to decide to go to that reunion. Thinking about walking into that reunion felt a lot like walking into high school freshman year. All of a sudden my palms started sweating, my throat went dry and everything that I was wearing felt wrong and my hair forgot how to be normal…I had all but resigned myself to not going, especially since I had thrown a big retirement party for my mother that afternoon.  Anyone that knows me knows I am a curl up on the couch under the blankets, binge-reading and watching Netflix kind of decompressor, not one to rally and go out after having spent the last 24 hours surrounded by people…say it with me: Introvert.

I moved to California to go to college and then back to Chicago after that, and truth be told, I don’t hang out with anyone that went to my high school from my graduating class. So who was I possibly going to talk to? And for those of you that weren’t there, let me just give you a glimpse into the nerd-dom that was my high-school career:

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I didn’t go to a grade school in my community that fed right into my high school. I knew a grand total of two people going into high school. I didn’t have an established group of friends at school, so I ended up getting along with a little bit of everybody. I got good enough grades. After giving the swim team the old high school try my freshman year, and realizing that it wasn’t a good fit with asthma and needing knee surgery in the middle of the sophomore season, I ended up in the theatre (mostly because I was terrified of saying no to the directors) I did contest plays and group interpretations, and then devoted my every waking minute to the Speech team when I wasn’t working on the newspaper staff. I eventually became president of the Drama Club and the Editor-in-Chief of the Newspaper…so obviously I was the most popular kid in school…Oh, no wait, my life isn’t an episode of ‘Popular’…yeah now I remember, I was a huge dork.

So there I was, feeling great about my excuses for NOT making it to my reunion. But then I stepped back and realized that that was exactly all they were, excuses. At the same time, it occurred to me that I have been at this juncture before.

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I know that this is really cheesy, but I didn’t go to my prom. I had some interesting experiences in place of it, but looking back, I kinda wish I had. I always thought that I would go to my own prom growing up, then the time came and went and I just didn’t. Standing there deliberating over whether or not to go to this reunion, I realized that I had the exact same thought process. I always thought that I would go to my reunion, (who am I kidding?! I totally daydreamed about being a rich writer/actor/oscar-winner/director/philanthropist at my reunion, arriving in a helicopter prepared to lift everyone to my Chicago-based penthouse where the real party would commence – don’t ask me how I was going to fit everyone in one helicopter, planning was clearly not part of the daydream…And don’t act like you didn’t have similar day dreams of crazy success, I know I’m not the only delusional one…).

This specific pattern was one that led me to some regret in the past. Now there are a lot of bigger things to regret for sure, but the point is, I didn’t want a repeat of that. I didn’t want to miss out on another opportunity that only comes by once. For better or for worse, you only get one real ten year reunion, with all its awkwardness and anxiety.

I was sure that the reunion would suck, (not in any way due to the planning, our class president did a great job). But I also realized that I didn’t want to spend the next ten years wondering if that reunion sucked, I would rather just have that experience, sucky or not, and know. Admittedly, the decision to go didn’t quell the rising nerves, crazy hair or wardrobe crisis that I was facing. I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack…

Then I remembered that I am a GROWN WOMAN. I’m self-sufficient, and accomplished and I have spent the last ten years learning how to be me. In the famous words of that wise sage, Drew Barrymore:  “I’m not Josie-Grossie Anymore!”

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I think we all kinda feel like Josie Grossie…I’m pretty sure that we all spent high school trying to be relevant, just trying to be seen, just trying to matter. Thank God that we can all now just spend our time with the people that we love, just trying to survive, pay our bills and enjoy life. Nobody else has to live your life, so what does it matter what anyone else thinks of you anyway? I know how to feel comfortable in my own body and my own clothes and I am comfortable with who I am. I am capable of holding great conversations with people. I have 2 degrees in pretty social industries.

While my daydreams of stardom clearly didn’t happen yet (sorry guys, maybe in ten years) there are a few things that I did learn:

NUMBER 1: Alcohol at a reunion is a great idea. Too much alcohol is not, but for the most part, it’s awesome to have something to lubricate an awkward situation to help everyone be a little more brave and take a chance on talking to someone that they know but might otherwise pretend not to out on the street during your lunch break in the middle of the work day.

NUMBER 2: NO ONE is better than anyone else, and NO ONE is cool in high school.

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At your reunion, the beautiful and popular people will still be beautiful and sociable and close. But you come to see everyone in a new light. With luck, everyone has grown up and realizes that inevitable truth: that we are all nerds just trying to go through life without looking stupid. Everyone was just as uncomfortable and nervous as everyone else. I think everyone feels just as nerdy, just as out of place, just as desperate to be accepted, just as awkward around their past secret crush that they never worked up the courage to talk to in the past…So I decided to dive in, and go big or go home. I spoke with people that used to intimidate me. I spoke with guys that were outright mean to me in school. I even connected with some great mentors again. And I had a really great time.

NUMBER 3: At the end of the day, having friends always counts for much more than how you come across them.

I used to worry about fitting in with the right people at the right times, not to the point where I forced friendships, but I was always a little jealous of the girls at school who just seemed to belong to a specific group. They knew where they fit. Some people say the friends you make in high school will be for life, some people say it’s college, some people say it’s grade-school or on your first job. The truth is, the more people I meet, the more obvious it becomes that you can meet great people that will enrich your life at any point, from anywhere.

Each group is pretty much equal. It doesn’t matter what circle you are in as much as it matters that you find a circle eventually. Size doesn’t matter as much as quality. If you have a few good friends that you can trust implicitly, that will be there through anything, that will tell you the truth when you need it, that will love you no matter what, that understand and share your sense of humor, you are a rich person.

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