May 2013 marks the 30 year anniversary of my high school graduation. Facebook has made it possible for me to stay in touch, albeit seldom and reluctantly, with people I knew–and more I never knew–from high school. And it has not gone unnoticed by those Facebook friends that 30 years have passed. A few of them have organized and put together a reunion party. Of the 254 people invited, 72 have confirmed attendance, 20 are maybe’s and 162 have not responded either way. I’m one of the nonrespondents.
After thinking about it, my first thought wasn’t whether or not I should go, but rather: why in the world do these people want to get together? We were mere teenagers when all our lives crossed paths. Thirty years have passed. Those people are strangers to me now. I’m sure they’re all wonderful, quality people, but they are strangers none the less. And I don’t feel the need to get to know them.
I checked out the list of people going. Only a handful of them are old friends with which I’d be interested in engaging–Nancy, Stephanie, Fe–a few others. We’d say hello in a high pitch, like talking to a puppy. With big smiles and hugs or handshakes, whatever felt right at that very moment. “How’ve you been?” will be the most asked question of the night. “It’s been so long” will be the most repeated sentence. “We should really stay in touch” will be the biggest unfulfilled cordiality. The room would be filled with 48-year-olds talking of careers and the stock market, complaining of body aches and divorces, and flipping out wallets full of business cards and pictures of grandchildren. The thing about looking at pictures of grandchildren is that you’re obligated to gush over how cute they are…even if you think they’re butt ugly.
It seems to me that after a 5-minute conversation with one of these strangers, I’ll be out of things to say. What’s more, for four of those five minutes I’ll have not wanted to be in that conversation in the first place. It’s uncomfortable but I’m OK at small talk when I need to be, but I’m not going to purposefully put myself in a situation where I might need to keep the small talk going with (potentially) 72 people–many of whom I straight-up don’t remember at all.
But if I’m going to be truly honest with myself, I need to admit here that my reluctance to attend is not completely because I have nothing in common with these people anymore. Much of it–MOST of it–is for all the regular reasons people don’t want to revisit their past. I’ll be constantly comparing myself to them. In fact, I think it’s safe to assume that most of the room will be comparing themselves to one another. It’d be much easier if I was proud of what I’ve achieved in the 30 years since high school, but I’m not. I’m not anywhere close to where I thought I’d be:
- I never achieved the career successes I thought I would’ve achieved by now
- I’m still a single loser without even one prospect on the horizon
- I’m 30 lbs overweight with a hairline that’s retreating further back every month
- I allowed alcohol and drugs to hold sway over my life for nearly five years and in that time it took away all my financial progress and left me with embarrassment and regret.
So I’ve decided that I will not attend this reunion. I will not walk into a room with a “Hello, I’m Bill” tag stuck to the front of my shirt. I will not squeal “Hi!” to old friends and make small talk to near strangers. For these are the things that would lead me to feel my embarrassment and remind me of my regret. Even if I conceal them from all conversations, I still will know.
I see no value in looking backward. I’m in the process of coming to terms with the decisions I’ve made. I’m rebuilding what I foolishly squandered. And I’m very happy with the friends I have in my life right now.
So, my high school acquaintances, Facebook is the arm’s length at which I choose to keep you.