The greatest compliment anyone has ever paid to me:
“You’re always the same. No matter what group of people you’re with, you never change who you are.”
“I don’t know how to be anyone else.”
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:
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.
An email from: XXXXX XXXXXXX
Date: Saturday, 11/26/11
At the end of each year I write a few goals for the following year. I pulled out my notebook this morning so I could begin this process. To prepare I reread what I have written for the last several years and reflected on how close I have come towards accomplishing my targets. It was then that I picked up my pen and wrote something which felt both profound and startling accurate. I wrote, “Find a reason to live.”
I hope this doesn’t sound overly dramatic or alarming. I don’t mean to shock or disquiet you. I share my writing because I know that you will accept it in the spirit in which it is given and that you may understand and perhaps empathize. However, where I go from here, I’m not exactly sure. How does one find a reason to live? At least my writing has given me a better understanding of my apparent “problem.”
More to be revealed. What are your reasons for getting up every day?
My response: Saturday, 11/26/11
When I first read your entry I was a little surprised. “Find a reason to live” packs a powerful punch since it is a…requirement, I guess, might be the word…for all people to find some form of contentment or satisfaction or happiness. It lies at the core of every human being, whether we’re aware of it or not, to pursue what fulfills us. Conversely it implies that to not find a reason to live, leads to death. If you were a nut job or a depressive I might be alarmed, but I see you as a stable person with a strong mind so I know this is something contemplative and spirit-building.
But you are not alone with this notion. Within the last month I was brainstorming for concepts and themes to explore for imagery. Here are two ideas I wrote down that relate in some way to your 2012 goal: “Holding on to the belief that better things will come,” and “Realizing my best days are behind me.” I feel these relate since they are a response to a current condition.
I think as you and I come to terms with our respective projects (my exploration of these themes through artwork and your quest for reasons in 2012), that the journey itself, the act of our effort to find those answers might be a fulfilling one and, if we’re lucky, lead to more questions so that we can continue our search, hopefully on our own terms. However, I question whether finding the answers is enough. It might only be the first half. I think what we DO with our answers might be what tips the scales towards contentment. I think it will be our attempts to SHARE what we’ve learned, through whatever medium we choose (artwork, writing, spoken word, etc) that will make the true difference.
What are my reasons for getting up everyday?
“Holding on to a belief that better things will come.”
Photo Credit: http://weheartit.com/entry/26705143