If you could go back to high school, knowing everything you know today, would you?
If I could do it over, I’d strut — rather than skulk — down those long, locker-lined hallways on my way to class. I’d let my smart, sarcastic, quirky personality shine, rather than hide my light under a bushel. I’d spend more time trying to find my own voice, rather than mimic that of Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas or Sylvia Plath. I’d read more. Spend more time pondering “why” and “how,” rather than memorizing the correct answers. I’d try a little harder – challenge myself a little more. I wouldn’t be afraid to go an entire month – heck an entire semester – without a boyfriend.
If I could go back to high school, knowing everything I know today, I wouldn’t use that make up bronzer in the clay pot, lie out in the sun while slathered in baby oil, or wear that purple bat-winged sweatshirt on senior picture day. (I look like Barney the dinosaur!) While I still believe in expressing myself through fashion, I’ve learned what not to wear.
If I could turn back the clock, I’d spend more time in the front seat of my boyfriend’s Camaro, rather than the back.
If I could do it over – take a mulligan, so to speak – I’d be more thoughtful in my choice of boyfriends. Sure I’d still pick the guy with the midnight blue Camaro (who wouldn’t) but I wouldn’t settle the way I did with those who came after. I wouldn’t skip Science class to make out under the stairs with Eddy or in the woods with Tom. I wouldn’t go to my senior prom with Bruce, who left me half-way through the night. I wouldn’t pine after boys who didn’t notice me. Instead I’d date that nice guy — what’s his name — who was a little pimply-faced but smart, and funny, and liked everything about me.
If I’m so much smarter now…so convinced that high school today would be a breeze, rather than the angst-ridden ordeal it was a quarter of a century years ago, then why am I so ambivalent about attending my upcoming 25th high school reunion?
Why do people go to reunions anyway? What’s the point? Is it to show off? If so, I can go head to head with the best of them. At work, I recently got promoted to Vice President. I’ve got an interesting gig on the side writing for this newspaper and doing weekly radio features. I own a fashionable, loft-style condo in an historic building. I’m not fat or ugly. I’m divorced – but who isn’t. I’d say I’m relatively successful. Relatively happy.
But I don’t want to play that game. I don’t care what those people think of me. That’s one of the things I’ve actually learned in the past 25 years. It’s more important that I’m content with who I am…that I’m proud of my own accomplishments. I don’t need validation from the captain of the football team, or the cheerleading squad, or my teachers. I get that from within.
If it’s not about one-upmanship, then maybe the purpose of a reunion is simply the chance to reunite with old friends. But I was one in a graduating class of 525 students. How many of them did I even know at the time? How many would I recognize all these years later? How many would remember me? Between dating an older boy with divorced parents (one of which lived in a neighboring town), and working weekends as a live-in nanny, I feel like I spent a lot of my high school career on the periphery.
I had a tight circle of about five or six best girlfriends. I ran into one of them several years ago. She was a harried mother of three with a lazy husband, two cats and a dog who was too big for his crate. That’s not how I want to remember her. I want to remember her as the girl I spent hours talking to on the phone every day. The girl who’s dad was in the Knights of Columbus with my dad. The girl I got my license with. The girl who went to the Arcade with me to play Pac Man and Frogger. We went in hopes of meeting older guys who had their own cars. We’d lie and give them made up names like Mercedes and Candy, then go to McDonalds for fries and Coke afterwards.
I like that my high school memories are tucked away safe in a box with my yearbook, prom photos, and a few love notes from that boy with the Camaro. I think I’ll keep it that way.