Monday, November 17, 2008

25 Years Later

"Under your Q&A I saw that when asked how your friends would describe you that you put down 'unique,' Jack said.
Did I? I thought to myself. Probably...I don't remember liking any of the other options.
"And I thought that 'unique' was the best way to describe you in high school. You were always so put together and so comfortable with yourself.
Andy who? Who the hell is he talking about?
"While the rest of us were trying to figure out who we were there goes Andy with all the answers, just being himself."
Is he serious?"
I always envied that about you."
Holy crap. He is serious.
Later, when I was discussing this conversation with my reunion-wife over dinner, she said, "Oh absolutely. You were just like that. You were also one of the smartest kids around. You knew everything."
At another point during the night while I was marveling at how good some of my female classmates still looked I walked into this conversation:
"...but don't tell him I said that."
So I asked "What are we talking about?"
Laura replied, "Lynn was just saying 'Don't tell Andy how attractive he turned out to be.'"
Unfortunately Lynn had brought the yearbook along to prove her point rather emphatically.
Over the course of the evening I also was told the following:

  • "All this and you can dance, too? Oh my God."
  • "You always were a gentleman and you always treated me very well.
  • "Your classmates picture looks great and it still doesn't do you justice. You need to change that - now."

So, if nothing else, my 25th reunion was an unexpected ego boost. But it was still weird.

I never felt "put-together" during high school - at all. I thought I was a wreck. I was just trying to survive another gym class of not getting picked on for being skinny and really not too athletic or trying not to stutter whenever I talked to any of the attractive girls I went to school with. I thought that each day was a mental fight for survival.

I never really hung out with anyone other than the usual gang of misfits and the extended group that it became. One fateful day,our English teacher, Miss Brackman, had sauntered across the library and announced, "Hey! there's the crew!", with a wink and a smile.

None of us fit into any one clique so we made our own. From that day on we were "The Crew", if only known to ourselves - and Geri Brackman.

I was being myself simply because that's what our clique decided to be - ourselves. I was neither brain nor jock nor burnout but I had friends from all three groups. We all did, it was just the emphasis on which friends we knew from which clique that was different. We each had separate interests but we also had enough interests that overlapped which served to strengthen our bond.

Within this group of friends I was allowed to just be me, the "skinny little nerd boy", as Fox likes to call me, who was able to find strength and security in our group of individuals.

I never knew that we all seemed to suffer our own brands of identity crisis or insecurities but it seems that we all experienced something like that at one time or another during high school. I guess we were pretty good at hiding them from those around us. For me, the one group that knew of and accepted me in spite of these insecurities was "The Crew". If I had any hidden strengths in school then I'm sure that they helped me to find them.

Only one other member of The Crew showed up to this years reunion (Thanks, George!). However, I turned this into a positive event. Without the safety of staying seated with my sizable group of friends I was able to mingle with my fellow classmates and I was afforded the opportunity to talk - really talk- with each of them. I spent the evening chatting with people about their lives, their kids, and how things did or did not turn out for them. I danced a little, talked a lot, and really enjoyed myself.

On the drive home my reunion-wife also pointed out (rather sagely) that "none of us were who the others thought we were. The trick is accepting that they saw things in us that we failed to see in ourselves."

This is very true. And I appreciate her sharing this thought with me. It was a pleasure to spend the evening with my reunion-wife. She is a great friend and she has a wisdom that belies her youth.

I really enjoyed my class reunion. 25 years later, I find that "just being me" paid off with dividends that I never, ever expected. I have found that men and women from the Class of 1983 think of me fondly and well and I find that very rewarding, somehow.


Blogger Murph said...

First, let me say that 25 years passing means 25 years of memory and sight loss. It allows people to not only forget or not see the flaws in others, but also themselves.

That said, I think 'unique' is a wonderful way to describe yourself, as well as the other members of The Crew (which, as an original member myself, I think I would know).

And while everyone at that age had some insecurities (anyone who tells you differently is lying), I think one of the key aspects of The Crew was that the flaws were mostly overlooked by the other members of this 'clique.' I say mostly because we each had to make sure no one got too big-headed. ;-p

Now, I am still trying to understand Fox's comment: "None of us were who the others thought we were. The trick is accepting that they saw things in us that we failed to see in ourselves." I think this comment is both why I did not go and also have some regrets about it. Part of me doesn't care what 'they' think of me, yet, part still wanted to show up and show them who I had become. I'm proud of who I am and what the people I happened to spend my high school years with (and ultimately decided not to keep in touch with) thought, or might think, of me really doesn't matter. Still, I can't help but wonder.

In the end, maybe it came down to the fact that if I may not have liked the answer, then maybe I shouldn't ask the question. I guess I decided not to ask. Or, maybe I just thought it would be boring. As you know, I'm not the social butterfly you are.

In the end, I'm glad you liked the answer to the question you decided to ask.

2:17 PM, November 17, 2008  
Blogger Fox In Detox said...

Great post friend. I had a few of those "Are you sure you mean me?" moments myself. I am I'm happy to find that I was a lot nicer to people than I remember...and that, Greg, was what my comment meant.

The classmates I spoke to at the reunion, who were for the most part...not the people I hung out with, saw me as a person who was nice to them and genuinely cared about them. That was the thing they saw that I didn't see.

All this time, I thought I was nothing more than a smart ass with a bad attitude, and a huge chip on my shoulder. Apparently that wasn't always the case.

8:09 AM, November 18, 2008  

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