Finding Antarctica

My 10-year high school reunion is coming up next year. I had a dream the other night about attending it.  We had all gathered in our old high school/junior high (our district was so small that grades 7-12 were taught in different wings of the same building) and, to celebrate 10 years out of school, were cleaning the place top to bottom. My old classmates were laughing and joking around about their school days. I washed the counters with a quiet smile not sure what to say.

I spent seven years on a visitors pass, so to speak, in that school district.  Like an Emperor Penguin living in a savannah I plopped down into their world at the beginning of the sixth grade.  The first year or two I actively didn’t belong. After that the teasing subsided and I was simply left alone, a quiet, slightly befuddled penguin diving for fish in the dry grass. In my last couple of years at that school I counted down the years, months, weeks, days until graduation. I couldn’t wait to disengage and never look back. It wasn’t a bad place; there were no bad people. It was simply a poor fit for who I was then.

Even as a deep introvert there have been people with whom I clicked into place the first time we met. If one listens there is almost an audible pop as a burgeoning friendship snaps together. This didn’t happen there. I stumbled across some friends, yes, one or two of which I’ve even recently started to chat with once again. It never made me any less penguin, though.

To re-interpret one of my favourite quotes*: as deep a cavern as loneliness carved within me during those years, this is my capacity for happiness and belonging now. As hard it as it was to be a visitor for so long I wouldn’t change my experiences there for anything. The person I was then is not who I am today in a myriad of (good) ways. I’ve found and am finding Antartica.

Before the dream I was feeling vaguely guilty for not wanting to re-connect at the reunion. I want to want to catch up with everyone. Reunions seem like the sort of thing that one just does, like sending thank-you notes, giving up a seat on the bus to someone who needs it more, or believing that a niece or nephew is the smartest, kindest, and funniest child in North America. 😉

The desire to do so is nowhere to be found, though. Not to sound callous, but if I couldn’t bond with my 80-ish classmates over the seven years we went to school together I doubt it will ever happen and would much rather spend my vacation time (and airfare/hotel money) with and on friends and family.

Why, then, do I still feel a tinge of guilt over this decision? If you’ve ever had similar emotions about something you really did not want to do, please share!

*The actual quote:

As deep a cavern as sorrow has carved within you, this will be your capacity for joy. P. L. Reilly

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  1. in planning my reunion a few months ago, i had a few people email me and let me know that they liked the facebook group, or the spreadsheet of everyone’s addresses to see where they lived, but they weren’t interested in attending. they cited reasons similar to yours, and that was so fine with me!

    it takes a certain amount of emotional energy to go to these things. there were years i went and loved it, and years i used a convenient excuse to not go. the cost is not only in money and vacation time, but in emotions as well.

    i have done way too many things out of guilt. i’m trying to give all that up. it’s interesting now it feels to let some of those things go … weights are lifted that i didn’t even know were there.

  2. How interesting. I have many of the same feelings you do. This next year will be my 40th reunion and I have yet to attend my FIRST one. I have lived close by..so the distance was never an issue. I am still marginal friends with quite a few of my past classmates, so I know that there would be people to interact with, and it would be cordial, but that is not the issue for me.

    I’ve even been asked point blank WHY? I didn’t attend…by some who had attended. I just tell them that I am just not ‘into’ that kind of thing. I’m a very social person and normally would not turn down a chance for any kind of get together. This is the one exception. I am not close friends with any of my classmates and probably would not choose to socialize with them normally, so I always think it seems like a ridiculous choice to go to one of these affairs. I don’t make a judgement about those who DO attend…that’s their choice..it’s just not mine!

    I agree with your mom about not doing things out of guilt…or to satisfy other people. I have done things that way for years, and am trying to live a different way now. It feels much better, too!

    • I actually think that its more common to feel as you do, than to be excited for the reunions. we had about 25% of our class attend this last one, and I bet that some of those who attended were ambivalent about going. so we can safely say that less than 1 in 5 people really want to go to the reunions.

      however, my guess is that a lot of people who don’t like the reunions, don’t mind a facebook group or some other means of staying in touch that is less personal.