It’s been a long time since I last posted, but not as long as it’s been since I graduated high school. Which is 10 years now. Before you are impressed by my English major math, let me assure you someone told me. To be exact, our class officers created a Facebook group for our high school reunion. If you had asked me 10 years ago what I thought our class reunion would be like, I never would have guessed invite by Facebook. It probably would have been via Hotmail, or carrier pigeon.
I’ve had mixed feelings on this whole 10 year reunion thing. On one hand, it seems like an awkward get-together to realize how many names you’ve forgotten, how much better and/or worse you are, and to rehash terrible memories. It’s like a big Where Are They Now? show. On the other hand, it’s a great way to have real, live conversations and re-connect with someone instead of just “Liking” his/her status. On the other hand, it seems like a lot of time and effort and money to meet with people you would have kept in touch with all these years if you truly had a relationship with them when you graduated (wait, that’s three hands now…shit. Well, like I said, it’s been 10 years since high school algebra).
Our reunion is being held at a pub and doesn’t require fancy dress or expensive tickets. I’m not sure why we haven’t gotten a family day together, as I’d love to show off my 4 furbabies. Although, let’s admit it, bringing my cat on a leash might get more dirty looks than those toddler leashes. But, hey, at least I would be asserting that although it’s been 10 years, I’m still WEIRD.
Reunions are a terribly interesting way to see what high school cliche everyone has grown out of. Will jocks be businessmen and use their brains? Will pretty, popular kids be overweight cranky parents? But when I look back on it (cue flashback sound effect: do do dooo do do dooo), I never felt like our class was made of the movie stereotypes. We were kind of the Average Joe’s gym of the school (I think someone in our class even invented The Dodgeball Club, but if we didn’t, we should take credit for it; it will be our Legacy).
The class ahead of us was ridiculously talented and were leaders in every way. The class below us were so annoyingly smart, taking up spots in our classes because they were a year ahead or being declared team leaders as well in sports or band. We were, well, we just enjoyed doing what we enjoyed doing. We were in a strange place generation-wise.
Nerd culture wasn’t cool yet. Hipsters hadn’t been identified as a species yet. We were kind of past The Breakfast Club roles that defined Gen X. We weren’t self involved with social media yet. Apple was that weird computer you got stuck with in some classes. Everyone who was anyone was on MySpace. We weren’t completely relying on computers and cell phones for entertainment though. We had the TV, but Netflix was still just by mail. We binged on human interaction.
Being in a well-off school district meant most of us were pushed to go to college, get a degree, then get A Job. It was a breeding ground for the middle class. But then we all got fucked over when the Recession hit in 2004. A lot of us were told to major in what made us happy because no matter what, we would get A Job. And then suddenly that wasn’t true. Jobs were scarce. Degrees were a dime a dozen (or maybe 3 dozen? the math gets fuzzy for me).
Now we’ll share what it was like to move back into our parents’ house, or see how many of us changed career paths because marrying someone rich didn’t work out, and we sure as hell weren’t going to get paid much for English degrees or Philosophy or Religious Studies. Even my wonderful Music major friends were going to fight to the death with their conductor’s batons for the few music positions in the area. Suddenly all these assurances that Life would work out if we just worked hard and got a Degree was pure Bullshit. Instead of laughing at someone for living in their parents’ basement, a bunch of us will be like, “Me too!” and lament how nice it was to have free cable.
The more I think on this, the more I realize we were cliches, but we were were hybrid cliches. We had a football player who was also in band (he probably got the most cheering for warming the bench than any other player; band geeks stick together!). We had talented theater kids who also did choir and were on honor roll. We had nerdy debate students who also enjoyed the arts. You had your group of friends in each activity or class, but I don’t really remember any specific popular kids versus goth kids versus losers. We were mature in that way.
High school was both awesome and awkward for me. It was a glorious and angsty and fun and terrible four years. Being a teenager is a constantly changing mood ring. Some days I wrote depressing poetry and cried myself to sleep. Some days I went to bed feeling like a BAMF because I’d made varsity in cross country when I used to be one of the slowest kids and always won things like Most Spirited Award at the end of the year banquet.
My cliche hybrid was nerdy band geek jock. I ran cross country and track, played in marching and concert band (I know you were jealous of that French horn in my picture above), and maintained being on honor roll all four years. Basically, I’m in denial and saying I was a Certified Overachiever. I graduated with lots of honors and awards and letters and scholarships and the day after graduation was like, “Well, Now What?”
A lot of those goals and activities in high school don’t mean a thing when you enter the Real World. Or even College. I played French horn one more year in college, but since I wasn’t a music major, it was time and money I didn’t need to spend, plus I was starting to feel behind when they busted out things like transposing and music theory during practice. I just wanted to play music and have fun.
Also, I thought about joining the cross country team at KU, which is a NCAA Division I school, but again, I wouldn’t be getting a scholarship, they were a top notch team, and I really just liked running to run. I hated competing, but the thought of having practice for two to three hours every day on top of homework was just a bit much. My career goal wasn’t sports or music. And that was frustrating – to realize activities you loved in high school weren’t always something that was logical to sustain. It was time to start Adulting.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have fun in college. It just means you have new activities like late night donut runs or social drinking. Social drinking a lot. Even though my college life was different than high school, a lot of those high school habits have still stuck, and it’s so weird to realize that although I’m a lot different than 10 years ago, in a way, I’m still the same.
Well, I took a break from running when I jacked up my knees. But then I discovered weightlifting. And when I was able to go back to running, I got into races and was hard core about my times and sometimes placing in my age group. Now I regularly participate in a running group and have a running coach. It’s like high school cross country, except now I get medals for just finishing and can drink beer instead of Gatorade afterwards. And I’m very involved in our CrossFit gym, where we also enjoy celebrating our health with beer.
I’m not in band, but I still play piano when one is available to me. Also, since the invention of the iPod and iTunes, I can finally take all my music with me and just buy the songs I like. No more heavy CD binders, no more spending $13 for one freaking song on an album, no more wasting more money on double AA batteries, no more giant headphones, no more having the cd player skip because you moved it just a nudge. Music is one of those things I’d take if I was stranded on an island (with, of course, my entire collection of 90s boy band music).
I’m also still so White and Nerdy. Except now it’s cool to be nerdy. And even cooler if you’re a chick. People now openly post about going to ComicCon or making cosplay costumes. And wearing glasses is sexy! It was NEVER sexy to wear glasses when I was in high school. Believe me. I switched to contacts sophomore year (and yet remained single somehow). Wearing nerdy t-shirts is cool. Reading young adult books is cool. Being in Show Choir or Band is cool. You know how FREAKING COOL I would be in high school right now? It’s ridiculous.
Nostalgia is a big sell for Millennials. So all awkwardness aside, I have decided to go to the reunion. Reflecting on what I’ve gone through, I really want to see where everyone else is on their journey. Our class is undefinable – our stories unique. Instead of completely changing in ten years, we are works of art in progress. What is still visible on the canvas and what new aspects make the canvas shine even more than 10 years ago? Who else in now in the picture? Where is the picture taking place? And does this place have Happy Trees?
The only big decision I have left before Saturday’s reunion is what to wear. There’s always that desire to look good and prove to people you’ve made positive life choices like learning how to properly dress and style your hair. Maybe add my glasses for a throwback nod and validating my identity as a wannabe hipster as I drink lots of craft beer. Like I said, us Millennials love our nostalgia, especially when paired with a good pale ale.
Jason has been told he must dress in something sexy and tight so I can parade him around like the bearded boy toy he is (I’m mostly sort of kidding on this). He seriously just gets to drink beer and look pretty on Saturday. Lucky. I have to make an impression. Show the world the more refined, smarter, less crazy-haired Jenny.
So that definitely means I’m rocking my Adidas flip flops. Some things never change.