Since high school

Here’s one inspired by my recent ten-year high school class reunion. 

For anyone who didn’t graduate with us, a little context: our public high school is in western Wisconsin. Our class was quite white, mostly Christian, and more middle class than not.
Our public high school is in western Wisconsin. Our class was quite white, mostly Christian, and more middle class than not. Our mascot? The Wildcat.

Since high school we’ve grown out our hair. Or we’ve chopped it all off or gone bald or shaved our head for childrens’ cancer research. We’ve lost weight and gained weight and gained weight and lost weight and gained weight and.

We’ve slept with the same person since high school. We’ve come out. We’ve left our virginity Up North, Out West, overseas. We’ve hooked up with a bunch of different people. We’ve followed women and men to the coasts and across oceans, seriously considered converting to Judaism. We’ve had our hearts toasted by love. We’ve divorced and we’ve married—sometimes, each other. We’ve found the love of our life, no doubt. We’ve committed in spite of the questions in the back of our mind. We’ve tried to make it work out. We haven’t found a partner, have often relished that freedom—sometimes ached that loneliness. We’ve watched Facebook and longed for bits and pieces of each other’s lives. We’ve remembered the grass is always greener.

Since high school we’ve kept pretty close to home. We’ve lived, volunteered, and studied abroad. We’ve hopped around a lot for school and work and love. We’ve moved to cities and bought farms. We’ve built houses, moved back in with our parents, and shared more rentals, with more roommates, than we can count on our fingers and toes. We’ve settled. We’ve drifted. We’ve started to take root.

We’ve finished our PhD, master’s, JD, DC, associate’s, bachelor’s. We’ve completed apprenticeships and transferred and dropped out and decided to go back to school and started a certificate program online. We’ve served our country. We’ve been awarded scholarships and internships and grants and fellowships and assistantships. We’ve come to owe the government and the banks thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in student loans.

We’ve taught your children in elementary school, in college. We’ve nursed your grandmother. We’ve installed the electrical wiring in your home. We’ve been in charge of the venue where you had your wedding, landscaped your yard, served as your neighbor’s public defender. We’ve counseled the people you know are addicts and the people you don’t know are addicts, and the prospective students, and we’ve cleaned your teeth. We’ve fixed your software and sold you a thing or two. We’ve made art you’ve hung in your living room. We’ve written an article you’ve read. We’ve adjusted your spine.

Since high school we’ve lost our moms and our dads. We’ve become people’s moms and dads. We’ve had babies that were born and babies that were lost. We’ve hurt unimaginably. We’ve throbbed and sobbed and kept silent and cried out. We’ve learned how permanent loss usually is. We’ve started to heal, but we’ve come to understand that we can never go back, not quite.

In five smiley minutes of catch-up questions—How are you? What are you doing these days?—we’ve told each other the shiny side of our stories. We’ve withheld what cracks our sleep. But, look: since high school we’ve learned the truth, we’ve all been in the real world. We’ve had our pain and our failures.

We’ve been knocked down a few pegs since high school.

Sooner or later, we all get leveled by what’s beyond our control. Against what’s inevitable we’ve tried to convince ourselves that people remember how good we used to be at chemistry, volleyball, hockey. Nobody cares. We’ve learned how to laugh at ourselves—much better than at each other.

Since high school we’ve lived common experiences across very different lives. In the local paper we’ve read each other’s engagement and wedding and birth announcements. And obituaries. We’ve grieved our friends. Their deaths have punched us in the heart and the gut, reminding us how few somedays could remain, cutting deep down to where we hold all the dreams we’ve deferred.

We’ve tried to take those lessons to heart, or we’ve realized we really should get on with taking those lessons to heart. We’ve decided to head in new directions. We’ve watched ourselves and each other become someone different from what we once were. We’ve grown wise enough to know we can change course, and that’s OK, and what people think doesn’t matter, so long as we’re improving and growing (seriously, finally—fuck what people think).

So we guess you could say that, yeah, we’ve come a long way, since high school. And we still get to choose just where it is we’re headed now, next.

The best part? We’re not as stupid as we used to be, but we’re almost as young.

From our senior yearbook.
From our senior yearbook.
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