High school is not for the faint of heart (although I think it's slightly better than junior high school). Who came up with the idea of throwing a bunch of hormonal insecure adolescents into close quarters for years on end? Honestly, it's amazing that any of us make it out with any healthy self image at all.
Yup. That's me, shoulder pads and all. 17 years old. Feature page editor of the paper, French club president, drum line captain. Bundle of insecurities, searching for self, trying to move through feelings of self-doubt, learning to trust God, falling in "love" for the first time.
I have the unfortunate pleasure of having my high school journals on my bookshelf. They are not pretty. They are cringe-worthy. But they are revealing. I cared way too much about boys. I cared way too little about making sure I was a good friend. I cared way too much about what people thought of me. I cared way too little about what I thought of myself. But I did grow up. My journal entries move from revolting to increasingly self aware as time passed. And what I now read between the lines is this: I was surrounded by some really great people who were struggling to find themselves too. We thought we had it all together, and while we were mistaken, it was still nice to have each other along for the ride.
We lost touch, though, even those friends I considered almost family. Why and how did that happen? I'm guessing that in this new age of digital friendship, losing a friend to time and distance may happen less and less frequently. But in that time long long ago, life got in the way. Letters became more and more infrequent, long distance phone calls were expensive, and we just plain fell out of the habit of connecting.
And then somehow we got old enough to have a twentieth reunion in the near future. I know most of you are thinking a twentieth reunion is NOT in your near future. I thought that. I really did. When I went to David's reunion with him, I felt very smug in my young age. I thought everyone looked really old and somehow I knew I would always be protected from such an advanced age.
I can tell you this now...IT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU TOO. Oh yes it will, and you will be just as shocked as I am that you are of "that" age. Just you wait.
So maybe it's the fact that you don't FEEL 37. Or maybe you realize you've more than doubled your age since high school graduation. Maybe you start to pine for lost youth. I'm not sure, but I know that I started feeling this desire to reconnect with people who knew me back when, to find out where life had taken them. The lovely haze of age had rendered my memories sweet. Even the bad memories felt nostalgic.
So I decided to go to the reunion. (I didn't go to my tenth. I had no desire. Also, I was eight months pregnant. That is a deal-breaker for me. "Gee, Kerri, you look...bloated. I mean...pudgy. I mean...wow, does everybody get ankles that big when they're pregnant?")
Not being pregnant this time was a bonus. Plus my braces were off. Score.
Thanks to Facebook, it was easy to jump back into friendship with so many of my friends. Some of these friends decided they wouldn't come to the reunion (I could call them names, but I've grown past that.) My friend Lori and I decided to start the reunion by meeting on campus to run an old cross-country training route. (I did not run cross-country. I was too embarrassed by my exercise-induced red face and too embarrassed to take showers to do any sports. Sad.) Although the whole class was invited, only seven of us showed up to run. It was a great run, hilly and hard. My friend Lori planned the route. I will brag. I attacked those hills. I will brag about Lori. She slammed me on the flats. Perfect. We both have bragging rights about something.
And then the reunion...
Honestly, I was a little freaked out. I didn't expect to be. It caught me by surprise. I think it was the mixture of not being sure if I was supposed to know everyone, but not recognizing everyone and all of those high school feelings flooding back. Whatever it was, it was weird. At one point, I didn't even know how to hold my hands and David looked at me and laughed. He said, "I have never seen you nervous like this and I think it's cute."
Not cute. Weird.
Other than being weirded out, I loved seeing so many people who had been so dear to me.
And I got an award: The Ball and Chain award for being married the longest. Yup. David married him a child bride.
Most embarrassing moment of the night: I thought I recognized a woman (girl? What do we call ourselves at this age? I'm just confused.) with a friend of mine. I gave her a big hug and gushed about how great it was to see her again. Then my friend introduced her as his wife.
I'd never met her before in my life. Maybe she just thought I'd had too much to drink.
As I watched the slideshow, I recognized big groups of my friends doing lots of fun things together. I wondered why I wasn't in the pictures. Then I realized I was too caught up in stupid boyfriends to have had the kind of fun with my friends that would have made better memories.
A girl who gave me most of my bad junior high stories (PE bullying, being pushed into a pool fully-clothed...all good things) came up and renewed a friendship. Unexpected.
Some of my friends were hotties still, and some were hotter than they had been in high school. We grew up well. They are successful. They are happy. Many are making big differences in the world.
Finally, I headed to an after-party at my friend Christy's house. Christy and her twin sister Kathy were my first friends when I moved to Yorba Linda as a third grader. We laughed and reminisced and talked until all hours.
As I thought about the reunion as we drove back to Utah (so much time to think on that drive...) I realized that we really are a sum of all things we experience. For good or for bad, these classmates of mine are woven into the fabric of my character. The memories I have of them, and many I cannot even begin to remember, have created the Kerri I am today. I am more kind because of being mistreated. I am more careful because I mistreated others and recognized the pain I caused. I am more open-minded because of my friends on the right and on the left of the political spectrum. I am more respectful of others' belief systems because of open and frank discussions. I appreciate these people and all that they taught me 20 years ago and all that they continue to teach me now.
I'm so glad that I can look back on the last twenty (TWENTY!) years of my life and be proud of them. No lost years. No terrible decisions. There have been dreadfully hard times, to be sure, but my life is full of love, full of learning, full of grace. It's full of all the good things that my 17 year old self might have wished for herself if she had known what to wish for.