Saturday, November 15, 2014

Second, First Impressions

Take a poll of random people and ask them if they will attend, or attended their high school 10 year reunion and odds are the data likely will be polarized.  On one end responses might come back like the following: “why would I go to my 10 year?  Isn’t that what Facebook is for?”  “I haven’t talked to any high school friends in years; there’s probably a reason for it.”  “Why would I want to see people who made my youth so awful?”  “What’s the point?”  “I don’t feel like I need to go and see people and prove myself, or feel judged by such a forced fake setting.”  On the other end some responses might come back like this: “I haven’t seen these people in years, and we just lost touch, I can’t wait to reconnect with people.”  “Yea, it’ll be cool to see people, catch up, and see how people have changed.”  “Yea, I’ll go, it’ll be cool to show people how I’ve changed or have grown.”  Speaking personally, I fell on the latter end of the spectrum as I attended my own high school 10 year reunion just last month.   

After a false start to my ten year back in August, I attended (and convinced my high school best friend to tag along) a makeshift and somewhat spontaneous happy hour organized by the class president in placement of the postponed reunion.  Walking into our high school’s small town El Torito I was met with a couple of hand fulls of familiar faces – now just a little more adult looking.  A pocket of former jocks; some ASB kiddos; and mustn’t forget my high school click – some bandos!  The casual setting was decent.  A couple drinks, some chips and guacamole, and defiantly got to chat with old friends, acquaintances, and even some of the cool kids I never did back in the day.  As the afternoon was winding down, and classmates were bowing out, I approached the class president and offered to help with the now postponed reunion.  Without getting into details, there was too much of the responsibility on her plate, and I wanted the reunion to happen just as much as anyone else – so by some impulsive decision on my part I found my sleeves pulled up in weekly meetings and a steady stream of committee tasks for the next two months. 

As the anticipation built for this highly anticipated reunion, so did mine – as well as my stress.  Make no mistake, I was happy and actually enjoyed being part of putting the night together, but there were definitely moments where I thought I bit off more than I could chew.  Sleep deprived nights, tons of emails, plenty of meetings, and errands later the night had finally arrived – and for the first time I thought to myself: ah, this is the part where I can relax.  And at that moment I finally felt excited – it was the first time I could be excited.  Up until that point my nose was to the ground, and I had my alter ego coach side screaming at me yelling “GO! GO! GO!”  Finally, everything was done: contract was finalized with Dave and Busters; centerpieces were made, being placed and spruced up; question sheets and bingo cards were printed and set out; slideshow; videographer; prizes; DJ; photobooth; check, check and check!  The ladies on the committee, as well as myself, could finally take a sigh of relief.  The night was finally here, and we – along with our arriving classmates – could finally enjoy this moment!   

And what a slew of moments that night was!  There was so much that made my reunion incredible, and as much as I’d love to dish out a play by play of the night, I also know I don’t want to lose readership.  Taken a minuet to define the night I’d wrap it up in a few similar sentiments: meeting people all over again; second first impressions; expectations shattered; in essence – people redefined!  Not just my classmates redefined – but myself as well!  And yes, it was quite a parttayyy!

With a photobooth, class elections, bingo cards as an ice-breaker, our videographer interviewing people with fun and potentially funny questions from high school, a DJ with a dance floor, plenty of food and drinks all around the night had something for everyone.  The night had a natural ease to it, and even half way through people’s dance moves were finally being dusted off – thanks to one of our animated classmates who became our unofficial M.C.  All jokes aside, there was also plenty of mingling and a genuine nature among classmates.  Taken a general consensus – people had a great time!
This whole experience – at least for me – was very serial.  You see coming from someone who was just a bit of a wallflower in high school it was pretty ironic, that I, one: attended, and two: that I was actually on the planning committee for the reunion.  Alright, maybe it’s not too farfetched that I attended, but that latter of that statement is kind of a bombshell.  Seriously, I would’ve been the last person you’d peg to be part of the planning for my high school’s 10 year.

The high school experience I had was neither delightful nor dreadful – it lay somewhere in between.  I was neither the socialite, nor the target nerd.  Honesty, I was a bit of a wallflower, who – like many – struggled with self-esteem and confidence, which had a lot to do with being raised in a very sheltered environment, and being on the chubbier side.  Where I’d hear, watch and envy peers who had effortless confidence, as they strutted across campus and approach and talk to anyone they wanted – jock or cheerleader – I kept to myself.  House parties were not in my vocabulary till I hit collage; contrary to the cattiness of most adolescent girls (just watch Mean Girls) I backed down from any drama; and the delicate art of flirtation that is rampant in high school I was totally ill-equipped for!

This isn’t to say I didn’t have a decent time in high school.  Yes I had my band friends – fondly referred to as bandos.  And yes, I had a mishmash of rag tag friends from other clicks: drama, hipster, choir, gamers, and surely I’m missing some.  Dances – I went to my fair share of ‘em, but always with a “friend” (seriously had no game in high school – which I can chuckle at now).  Football games – only went because I had to perform at the half time show with colorguard, band and drumline.

Colorguard was my safe place and where I spent most of my time in high school.  This was where I channeled much of my adolescent strifes, through the aggression you need for the equipment work, as well as some expression in the movement below the flying objects.  It was a place that was safe for me; a place I loved; a place I found a bit of myself – really and very therapeutic!  Matter of fact one good friend of mine – who shared the leadership role with me of captain and co-captain senior year – couldn’t make it to the reunion.  Truth be told, I missed having her there at the reunion.  But I digress.  

So 10 years of life after graduation I wasn’t the girl I was in high school that greeted people at the door.  Truth be told it was a really remarkable, and quite a flattering experience to have multiple people make mention of it.  Aside from just having the confidence that night I lacked in high school, as one of the committee members who hosted of the evening, there was a deeper initiative in me to make my rounds with everyone (not just lost connections of friends) but yes even the cool kids I never had the nerve to talk to on campus.  Was there a tinge of hesitation? Nope!  Genuinely, I wanted to say hello, and ask how they’ve been.  The return was always received well and actually with open arms.  No more high school fake fa├žades – just adults with a shared youth experience.  Being received by my former peers in such a positive way – who I envied and was too shy and intimidated by to approach years ago – was such a gratifying feeling.

To have one of our valedictorians who was one of those all-around guys approach me immediately as he arrives to spill how much he’s envied me for years came as a bit of a shock to me. When asked why he lists off my marathon runs, travels and writings as things he’s always wanted to do – my heart glowed with grateful flattery.  Really what an authentically sweet thing to say!  Make no mistake, this is not said with vindication or even a feeling of revenge – but rather a feeling that yes I have grown up, but more so grew that confidence.  And as much as my old friends and peers were happy and proud of my accomplishments, so too I was for them and theirs!  There was a genuine reciprocation.  Was it wonderful to have classmates complement me – yes, I won’t lie about that.  Was it a treat to reconnect with old friends – indeed it was, and I look forward to what that’ll look like.  Was it neat to exchange numbers with some of the cool kids, with a mutual respect and express a wish to connect after this evening affair – totally!  Reminds me of a conversation; as I’m talking to our class elected “most clueless” from senior year (who’s now in a PhD program studying medical physics – talk about ironic!) we connect mostly on the topic of travel as conversation flows easily.  I make fun of the fact that we never talked or associated in high school, as he chuckles in agreement he says to me: “Barbara, you’re really cool, how come we weren’t friends in high school?”  “Simple, I was really shy in high school, and you were kind of one of the cool kids.”  We laugh at the reality of the past, and agree that we should definitely connect the next time he’s off from PhD studies. 

Above all the smiling faces and laughs I encountered I am most appreciative of the time I got to spend on the planning committee – really it’s something I am proud of.  As stressful, and at times ridiculous, it was (ladies on the committee know what I’m talking about), I was able to connect with my best friend from high school, as well as really get to know the other two ladies on the committee – again, who I didn’t really talk to or associate with while in my adolescents.  That time together, is especially valuable to me because the four of us had time longer than 5 hour reunion span to connect.  There was more reminiscing, more catching up, and more respect built for each other.  Aside from my obvious high school best friend, I can say with confidence I earned two new friends.  Cheesy sounding – but how cool!

Now a month later, looking in the rear view mirror of the reunion there is still a genuine high of all the old friends I reconnected with, and all the second first impressions I had.  High school is such a fascinating time.  It’s a time that can be so full of life and possibilities, but truth be told, it can also be a battle field.  Regardless, it’s a pivotal time shared for four years with a slew of personalities – and with fake facades, raging and changing hormones, as well as the status quo in the way, it’s almost impossible to see people for who they really are.  Maybe that’s why these reunions exist.  Given time and space to live and grow outside of the high school bubble really offers people a chance to meet again without all the (excuse my French) bullshit getting in the way.


Check out the video from the night here.  And if you enjoy that check out Rob's website for any event you need filming for!

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