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