Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why I Hate High School Reunions

Moving back to California a year ago seemed like a good idea. After Keeghan died and Maxx was left without a sibling anymore, it seemed like a good idea to move close to where she had cousins that she was close to. I never really thought about the fact that there was a reason I left California nearly 20 years ago.

Growing up, I was pretty much invisible. I wasn't a brilliant student, but I wasn't the dumbest kid in class either. I didn't excel at any sport. In fact, I wasn't allowed to play sports at all. According to my mom, she and my dad didn't want me to be a tomboy. The reality (I think) is that if I had played a sport, they would have had to choose between who to go watch - me or my brother, and they didn't want to have to do that.

My brother was a very good athlete and the better part of my childhood was spent going to watch him play - baseball, football, track, and basketball (until every other boy his age grew to be taller than him). So many of my childhood memories are connected to seasons, but not the traditional Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. No, I remember things as happening during Baseball Season, or Football Season. Even my first boyfriend was someone I hooked up with because he was on the baseball team.

My point being, I grew up not being known for much other than being so-and-so's little sister. At the time it sucked, but it was all I knew. Don't get me wrong; I love my brother. Very, very much. But having him as my brother is so much easier now that we're not in school anymore. In high school, I couldn't wait to get out and away from it all. Away from all of them.

It took me a few years after high school to figure out who I wanted to be, and I floundered sometimes. Ok, I floundered a lot. It would definitely take both hands and probably a few toes to count up the mistakes I made. But eventually I left California. I joined the Army and didn't just get out of Cali, but out of the United States altogether! While stationed in Germany I met my husband, and it is truly with his help that I figured myself out.

None of that means that I know who the hell I am now. I'm 44-years-old, have two bachelors degrees and lots of job experiences (note, I said "experiences, plural, and not job experience - there's a difference) and I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. But I still like who I am. I know what my strengths are. I know that I am a good friend to those who are good friends to me. I actually know what a good work ethic is. I'm an okay writer. I am a good mom. A good wife. I love with a fierceness that is bright as the sun, and that is something that a lot of people can't say.

I also have faults. I'm a grudge holder. I don't give second chances. And when it comes to my childhood memories, I am still the most insecure person around.

All of that bringing me to my topic for this post - high school reunions. I graduated from high school 26 years ago. Until this past weekend, I had never attended a class reunion. Why bother? I have never kept in touch with any of those people, and I seriously doubt that I was missed at the 10-year or 20-year reunion. But I decided to go this time because the reunion included more than just my graduating class. As I said before, I like who I am now, and I love my brother. I thought it would be fun to go back and see everyone and be able to hang out with him at the same time.

Wow. Could I have been more wrong? I think not.

The first night of the Reunion Weekend was probably more fun than the official reunion itself was. It was at a local bar, owned by a guy that went to high school with us. I hung pretty close with my husband and sister-in-law. Other than one extremely awkward conversation with an ex-boyfriend of mine from when I was in my twenties, it was an okay night. My brother was the star, as expected, wandering constantly, never without someone nearby who wanted to talk to him. I saw a ton of faces that I recognized, and talked to one good friend from high school that I hadn't seen in decades but had connected with on Facebook. Other than that, I stayed in the shadows and observed.

The night of the official reunion was . . . bleh. After the previous night, I knew what to expect a little. As we arrived and entered the hall where the reunion was being held, there was a table for people to make name tags for themselves. I didn't want one. Call me stubborn, but I didn't want to wear a name tag. The people who knew me in high school would know me now. The rest I didn't really care about. When my brother walked in, he was told he didn't need a name tag because "everyone knows who you are."

I hate myself for saying this, but damn that was annoying.

We sat at a table with another couple, one of whom was in my graduating class and had played ball with my brother. When this guy introduced us to his wife, he introduce my brother by name and then said "and that's his sister" in reference to me. I tried to play it off and make a playful comment, something like, "Am I really still known only as his sister instead of by my own name?" and the guy pretty much just said, "yeah."

Again with the annoying. Really? REALLY?

I think Mike, my husband, knew that I was pissed. But more than anything, I was instantly that insecure teenager again. The one who wanted to be known and liked for me. The one who wanted to know that girls wanted to be my friend because they liked who I was, and not because they wanted to get near my brother. But instead I played into it all. I went and got a name tag that said "So and So's Little Sister" and wore it. All night.

Oh, and I had a glass or two of wine. Maybe three.

I'm pretty sure I made a complete arse out of myself at least once, and that I embarrassed my brother. At least once. And I'm pretty sure my therapist will be kept quite busy with this for a session or two.

So why did I put myself through this? Did I think that somehow these people would see the person I wanted them to see and not the girl I once was? Because in all honesty, it's not like I saw the people that they have become either. I saw who they were. It's not like there is enough time in a six-hour reunion to find out who everyone has become, whether they've changed or if they've stayed stuck in a high school mentality.

Side note: it was actually pretty easy to pick out the ones that stayed stuck in high school. Trust me, it's obvious.

Anyway. The lesson learned was this: if you hated high school and don't keep in touch with anyone from that time in your life now, going back to a reunion is probably not a good idea. If there are only a couple of people that you would want to see, plan a lunch date. See the ones you want and blow off the rest. Because those feelings that get stirred up again don't just go away when the reunion is over.

Oh. And because you can't UN-embarrass your brother.

Welcome to my thoughts on life

I had a major epiphany today. Those of you who have known me for a while are probably thinking, "Really? Another one?" Then again, once you find out what this particular epiphany is in regard to, you're probably going to think, "Well it's about *#$& time!"

So here it is: I need to find a new outlet for my snarkiness. Or my anger, bitterness, liberal opinions, etc. Whatever you want to call it. I just call it snark.

I started blogging on another site nearly a decade ago. While I still like writing there occasionally, and some of the best friends I have - women I would do anything for, even though I've never met them in person - were made there, I don't necessarily want to share that blog with everyone.

I started writing on my own website - www.skeleigh.com - four years ago. Ever since my son was diagnosed with cancer, I have used that site to get my thoughts out. But since Keeghan's death, my thoughts have occasionally been very dark. I don't want to taint that site with my inner demons; Keeghan deserves better, as do my husband Mike and my daughter Maxx.

That is what brings me here. I need a new outlet where I can write about whatever I want. It doesn't have to be about Keeghan, or my family, or my childhood cancer fundraising. It doesn't have to be politically correct. In fact, knowing me, it will probably be incredibly NOT politically correct most of the time, or at the very least, politically unpopular. There will probably even be the occasional curse word because, yes, sometimes cursing is the only way to truly convey certain feelings. And let's face it, cursing is a skill set that I have mastered.


The truth is out.

So, if you're interested in hearing my thoughts on life, and chiming in with a few of your own, I invite you to follow along. It will hopefully be a fun ride.