Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I didn't chop her head off after all!

A few months ago my daughter committed a capital offense. She was on my computer one evening and logged onto my facebook account at the exact same moment as a notice appeared announcing my upcoming (gasp!)  30-year high school reunion. Oh, but it gets better than that! She REPLIED, masquerading AS ME, saying something along the lines of “That sounds great! I’m excited to see everyone, and I’d love to help on the committee. Here is all my contact info.” (not exaggerating!)  

So out of the blue I get an email from our class president thanking me for my offer to help, (what the...?) and could I please create the invitation and a memory page for people to fill out. I was stuck. I felt like I had to follow through. But I wasn’t very excited about it. My daughter is a social networking machine! I, on the other hand, am a little bit of an introvert. I’m great in front of a class full of college students, and pretty good one-on-one, but I’m miserable at small talk, and an event like this foreboded LOTS of uncomfortable small-talk.

Me in full uniform (my first pair of Nikes!)
As the date approached, my dread increased. To the point that I had a mini-breakdown one night and spilled my guts to my dear, long-suffering husband: Most of my friends graduated early, like I did. I was invisible in high school. No one would miss me. I wasn’t up to reliving any of it...the cliques, the drama, the awkward insecurity. Worse, I felt stifled in high school. I tried too hard to follow the unwritten rules, to blend in, so I ultimately felt like I sold my soul for a stupid pep club uniform. As soon as I got to college I was liberated. Freed from the shackles of superficiality. Reborn with the courage to be myself. Why would I want to go back? And yet I felt obligated...since I’d helped with the invitation and stuff. 
I realized I was falling into that old high school mentality. I was having a minor identity crisis over things that are completely shallow! Like worrying about the fact that I don't weigh 97 pounds any more. Instead of celebrating the fact that I've finally gained enough weight to have cleavage! The question, To go, or not to go? was sending me spiraling into a vortex. 
Finally the class president sent me another email: “I’m trying to get a final head count. Are you coming to the reunion? A lot of your friends are coming...blah, blah, blah.”  It was all I could do not to write back, “What friends?” But I stopped just short of that, and at 11:45 p.m. on the last possible date to RSVP, I sent back a simple Yes. I needed to confront my trepidation. Besides, it was the right thing to do.
Luckily, a great guy from my graduating class married one of my favorite people ever, and we decided to carpool to the reunion. So in addition to my handsome, hilarious husband, at least I’d have two friends there, I consoled myself. 

Then right before the reunion, as I was getting in the shower, I got the worst stomach cramps of my life. I was doubled over, feeling a little dizzy, and breaking into a cold sweat. I had visions of fainting right there in the shower and bumping my head on the glass door. I still don’t know if it was psychosomatic or pure coincidence. But it took me long enough to recover that we were nearly an hour late. 
That turned out to be perfect timing. Plenty of people were still arriving, and they hadn't started dinner yet. At first, standing in line at the registration table, I felt a little shell-shocked and still wasn’t sure I wanted to be there. Then the guy in front of us in line suddenly turned around and threw his arms around me. It was Geoff Lee, a guy I’d known since junior high, who had also worked with me at a regional magazine during college. I have to admit, I love the guy, he’s hilarious, and I’d missed him. 
The rest of the evening went pretty much like that...I kept running into people I hadn’t seen...or even thought decades, and was completely surprised that they remembered me, were excited to see me. And *shocking revelation* I was genuinely thrilled to see them too--all of them. It was like rereading a favorite book, a classic, and rediscovering all your favorite characters, but with the added perspective maturity brings.
Something about three decades separating us from our high school years seemed to make all the difference. Three decades is long enough to humble us, let life knock us around a bit, make us appreciate each other in a new light. By this age, nearly everyone has lost a parent, a child, a spouse, or a sibling. Many had suffered through a divorce. Still others never married, or never had children. Life had leveled the playing-field and made us all kinder, wiser, deeper, stronger.
I realized I cared very deeply about these people. I loved them. I wanted to become a gatherer...find the ones who were lost, or chose not to come, and tell them, “Things are different now. It’s safe to come back. You’ll be amazed.”  Sure, some still had designer clothes, foreign sports cars, and looked like supermodels. But none of that seemed to matter. Instead there was an abundance of caring and sharing, hugging and mugging (for the camera), and a rare sense of unity. 
When I got home my teenage daughter actually complimented me on my outfit *small miracle* -- and then asked the big question -- “Aren’t you glad I signed you up?” I hate to admit it, but I’m glad I went, even glad I got involved...and I’m already looking forward to the next one. 

Me -- straight from my junior year East High yearbook.


LisAway said...

Great title, reading it after having read the post. :) Wow, what a great experience, especially considering that you would probably NOT have had it had you not been forced into it. So awesome. And how neat to see how, with time, we all become more "human". I had a small group of very close LDS friends in high school, but besides a few other friends, I didn't really know the other people. I'd be interested to see how it would be now, so many years on. I've done a little stalking on facebook and I love seeing their families (I never would have thought SHE would have 6 kids!! etc.).

Great post. And so, so nice to see you, as always!

Jessica said...

Oh my- that is too funny! I would love to meet your daughter! And I have the SAME feelings about high school- which is why I have never been to a reunion. But I know you are right- it likely would be completely different now.

breckster said...

Showing my age here, but I refused to go to my 10 year reunion. The great thing is we have been married just long enough that Justin knows which battles to fight and that wasn't one of them. I will give a few years, and then maybe you have convinced me that I should give it a try. I'm glad it was a good experience, although if it had been negative I wouldn't have to worry about going to mine.

Kazzy said...

Oh my, you are the cutest! You seriously have changed so little.

My 30th is next summer, and I can't wait! Maybe we differ in that area. I loved high school and all of the creative outlets, and maybe because I was a social butterfly I do not notice the cliques too much, though they obviously were there.

That daughter of yours... LOL

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

That girl of yours is a HOOT. I've always counted myself lucky that my high school class doesn't seem to have anyone "with it" enough to organize a reunion, but now I'm kind of bummed at the thought of never going to one.

So glad you had such an awesome experience!

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, it all turned out beautifully! And you tell it so well. Excellent. And your photo is gorgeous.

Dedee said...

I love this post. And I'm so glad you had such a good time after so much fear. You've almost made me think I might go to my 20th. Maybe.

You are amazing. And I love that daughter of yours to pieces!

Heather EO said...

Oh how I love you.

I loved my reunion for these same reasons. And now I was tricked into heading up my 20 yr in 2013! But not by my daughter. She can't quite type yet. ;)

Good on you for going, being your awesome self and not chopping a darling head. Heh.

Shari said...

That made me laugh. And also cringe. Because this summer was my 30th too, except I didn't go because we had other plans that weekend in the form of trekking across Wyoming.

But I felt the same way about going. Did. Not. Want. To. I didn't enjoy my stay while I was there. Why would I want to go back?

I'm glad yours turned out much better than mine.

Jennifer said...

That last picture of you...that is JOSH. Wow I've never seen that so strongly before. Miss you...someday hopefully we can get together.


LisaL said...

Jana, It was so great to see you at the reunion. Yes, I was feeling the same way you did, you said it best. Life has changed us all and the maturity of the whole evening was a very nice surprise. I hope to round up more of us the next reunion!

Jana said...

Jana, I was thrilled to read your post about the reunion . Unfortunately, I was unable to come, quite honestly I didn't really care as my life is in a personal turmoil and I felt like attending would make me feel like a failure ... It wasn't until I heard from old friends that I actually wished I had been able to go!

slcmomof5 said...

I did not go to my 30 year reunion (although I went to my 5, 10 & 20) because I was worried about feeling like I was in High School again. But after I heard about it from friends that went and seeing the photos from it online, I realized that I had sunk back into my old high school feelings by not going and that I really missed out. Good for you for going!

LB said...

I am glad it is safe! I almost didn't come to the reunion myself. I enjoyed myself at the reunion so much, and you are one of the people I very much want to stay in contact with. That is a funny story, I had many of those same thoughts. Great to see you, stay in touch.
Laura Barton