It came... and then it went

The 2007 Academy of the Holy Angles class of 1987 twenty year high school reunion.
It came… and then it went.

Overall (to be completely honest) I felt disappointed and let down. Do not get me wrong - The committee did a good job organizing the reunion. Although it would not have been my first choice (more on that later), the venue Kieran's Irish Pub was pleasant, with a positive and upbeat atmosphere. The committee members were all very enthusiastic and welcoming.

What I felt disappointed and let down in was... well... myself.

You see - my lifestyle (not having a lot of "disposable" income, having many young children, working a stressful job that requires me to work odd hours, and having "too much" to do with not enough time to do it in) provides very little opportunity for going out. If (by chance) there is some free time in my schedule, and that time just happens to line up with my wife's schedule, our first choice for what to do inevitably (and by our choice) involves "family" time. A night out, just the wife and I (without the kids) doing "adult activities" -

Yeah, yeah, yeah - Save your "comments" - By "adult activities" I mean...

1. Eating somewhere that does not involve an evil red-headed corporate McClown asking me if I want "fries with that" or if I would like my meal "supersized".

And

2. An evening of activities that does not involve a swing set, slide, or sandbox.
- is something that happens once or twice a year. Needless to say, when these opportunities present themselves (like the reunion) I REALLY look forward to them!

"REALLY looking forward to the reunion" may have been the first proverbial nail in the disappointment coffin. You see - it is one thing to "anticipate" an event for a few days - maybe even a week. In the case of the reunion, it was something that (at least in the back of my mind) I was looking forward to for nearly a year and easily was on the forefront of my mind for a couple of months. I had an opportunity to "build it up" so much in my mind that the reunion had no chance of meeting my expectations.

Helping to drive that nail was the fact that my prior reunion experiences were all very positive.

My graduating class had between 175-180 students. When I left high school, I prided myself on being able to say I knew (and got along) with everyone in our class. Of these 180 some students, the "core" group I spent time with consisted of about 20 (give or take) people that I would consider true friends (I will call them "Tier 1"), another 20 (give or take) that were friends / acquaintances that I would spend time with (I will call them "Tier 2"), and the remainder 120 (give or take) were people I knew from casual contact, but had little to do with on a day to day basis (Yup. "Tier 3").

When the time came that my five year reunion rolled around (It was held at a Chi-Chi's in St. Paul (?)), I had felt like I was on more of an extended spring break than having been separated for five years. I was still able to put names to everyone's face, and enjoyed several conversations with former classmates from all "Tiers".

At my ten year reunion (held at the Buck Hill Ski Chalet) I had still retained about ninety-five percent of the name / face ratio. I had a great time, and spent a large portion of the evening visiting with someone I had barley known in high school. It was a pleasant surprise, and (of all the reunions I have been to) this one had the largest number of classmates that I wanted to see actually present. This reunion stands out in my mind as the best of all the reunions I have been to.

As the fifteen year reunion rolled around (held at a bar in St. Paul - I do not recall the name) I was staring to feel the effects of "moving on". I was still able to identify all my friends, most of my acquaintances, and even some of the names that went along with a funny story or a lasting memory that occurred. Sadly though, there were some that I just could not place. These are people that (back in high school) I had very little contact with - but knew of them. There was still a significant turnout of my “core” group of friends.

Somewhere between the fifteen and the twenty - something happened. You see, to be honest, last week at my twenty year reunion I had trouble naming all but a few of the attendees. I think I have now fully disconnected from my high school years and (with a few exceptions) the space in my memory that used to store those "names and faces" has (unfortunately) been used for other useless drivel.

I do have a theory, but honestly my "theory" may be more of an "excuse" or "justification" than a bonafide "theory", yet I feel it has some merit. On one wall of the pub was a slide show of miscellaneous photos from our yearbook(s), and other photos (from personal collections) submitted to the reunion committee. While talking to one of my friends about how we were both having a hard time remember names, we turned to the slide show, and I was still able to name a significant portion of the students in the photos. Yet as I turned and looked around the room, I had a hard time being able to name those same attendees.

Theory: The recognition of the students from the sideshow vs. the lack of recognition of the same students standing in the bar next to me (20 years later) has something to do with the changes that we all have been through over the past twenty years. (I can tell you there is a little bit "extra" of me than there was twenty years ago). In other words, I recognize "John Doe" in the photographs because the "John Doe" of my memory looks just like the "John Doe" in the photograph - but the "John Doe" standing at the other end of the bar looks just similar enough that I get that "Man does he look familiar" spark, but just different enough to give that uncertainty or inability to connect with the name. I guess it is safe to say (just as my dad always tells me) "Justification is the key to mental health".

Sadly, I can name more of the "regular" criminals, and what they have been up to in the past year (at least in the jurisdiction that I am employed) than I can name the people I went to high school with. What does that say for my psyche?

My biggest disappointment of the evening came when I found myself having a VERY DIFFICULT time just going up and saying hello to people I would have had no problem visiting with at any of the prior 3 reunions. I actually told one person that I would have paid extra to be able to have a hiding spot and watch the reunion from a "peep hole". (An embarrassing truth.)

One of the consequences of being "me" is having very little opportunity for "social interaction" in my life. I work with the same thirteen people - albeit a pretty good group of people to work with - but it is the same thirteen people (with little change over the past twelve years).

Work related “people contact" comes over a telephone. I deal with EVERYTHING over a telephone. I have witnessed life begin, I have witnessed life end, and I have witnessed many of the good and bad things that happen in between the beginning and the end of life - but always over the telephone. (Actually the more I think about it, a significant portion of what I hear has very little to do with the "good" and for the most part centers around the "bad" things that happen in peoples lives - but that is a "theory" for another time.)

At home, I live a pretty isolated existence. My large family takes up much of my time. I watch as a group of my neighbors get together (semi-regularly) and drink beers on a deck, or sit around a backyard recreational fire as I sit inside and attempt to fold the "Mount McKinley" of clothing that prevents access to our family room, or clean up the "Titanic sized debris field" in our house that comes from a day of children's playing, or because I am just too damn tired (from only getting four or five hours of sleep in the past three nights) that I am falling asleep while washing the dishes.

I am sure these families have their own responsibilities (and I mean in no way to diminish those responsibilities), but I am convinced that they do not have the number of responsibilities that come with a family as large as ours - how else could they find the time to partake in these fun activities?

Side note: For what its worth, we are one of the oldest couples in our neighborhood, and are in a "different place" than most of my neighbors. If memory serves me there are between five and fifteen years difference between my wife and I and almost all our neighbors. As the neighbors are getting older, I watch their lives change too. Since the last of the four "main" couples that regularly got together had a baby last year, I do not think I have seen them "sit around the fire" yet once this year.

Although they are much younger than us, we do get along very well with our next door neighbors who have three children that are almost the same ages as ours (our families have staggered aged kids). I think we relate better with them than any other of our neighbors, and we have our own “family” rec fires and BBQ's on the patio- so don't worry, I am not a complete sociopath! (Hey, Jeremy - Thanks for being a great neighbor, and patient with our busy family!)
On the occasion that we get invited and it actually works out that we can attend one of these get togethers with the larger group of the neighbors (I can think of two times in 7 years) I do enjoy spending time with them! I live in a great neighborhood with lots of wonderful people, but I find myself feeling "apprehensive" when around people I do not know well. I fear that my ability to be "social" has been noticeably impaired, and my internal "suspicion" radar has become "over modulated" by my job and by my slightly "isolated" existence. My trust in (and therefore desire to be around) people (other than myself, and a select few others) has been altered. I can make small talk with new people, but it is so hard it physically “tires” me out.

I think I may be dealing with a slight case of Social Anxiety.

If any of my classmates at the reunion find themselves reading this post, please forgive what appeared to be my "lack of interest" in saying hello to you. That is not the case. I truly wanted to catch up with everyone there, but (for whatever reason) I found it very difficult. Honestly, I do keep in touch with a number of alumni friends via email. (Embarrassingly) I find email such an (ineffective, yet) easy way to maintain a friendship at a "comfortable distance". If (as stated above) you are one of the class of 1987 alums, and you are reading this (and I have not yet frightened you off, or caused to you call the police and report me as a possible accomplice to Ted "The Unabomber" Kaczynski) PLEASE (a.) Forgive me and (b.) use the "contact me" link on the left side of the blog and drop me a line! I'd love to hear from, and catch up with you.

Now, with my own demons, self loathing, and personal disappointment out of the way, I can move on with a disappointment of the evening that I cannot find an internal fault, nor can I fault the committee for. This is an instance where I must “accept that I am not able to control other's avoidance of me”. (Step 2 of my “Social Anxiety Anonymous” 12 step program)

I was disappointed to “not see” twenty or more people that I REALLY wanted to catch up with at the reunion. These are people that I would have talked too (despite any of my “issues”). Among the people that I REALLY wanted to see – perhaps three of them (plus spouses) showed up. The lack of turnout from my “core group” of friends really brought me down.

With one execption.

The presence of one “out of the ordinary” friend who saved the whole reunion for me. If it was not for her attendance, the whole event would have been a total disappointment. When I first arrived, I saw all those “familiar faces” that I could not name. I slinked my way to a quiet little area, and just started surveying the crowd. I first noticed her husband, and then it was not long before the inevitable (and eagerly anticipated) “big warm hug” came from my long time friend “Many Things Do Not Fly”. I could (and may some day) post about our unique friendship, but let it suffice to say (for now) that her feisty, energetic, lively, animated, high-spirited, (gasp for air), go-getting, bouncy, and sparkling personality (I could go on more, but I think you are getting the picture here) made the reunion an enjoyable event. I enjoyed spending time with “Many Things Do Not Fly” and her husband. As I told her a few days ago in an email – there is something about Mr. “Many Things Do Not Fly” that can always bring a smile and a chuckle out of me! He is intelligent, witty, and seems to recognize my “social anxiety issues”. (Personally, I suspect he may deal with similar “issues”, which is why I find sitting back and spending time with him an “always enjoyable” experience.) I would like to get together with them a little more often than the "once or twice every five years" schedule that we are on now!

Well, now after exposing some faults, sharing some embarrassments, and purging some feelings – I’ll close with a couple of opinions / future suggestions. (CAUTION: These are NOT criticisms. The reunion committee did a great job, and should be commended for all their hard work. I hope that if any of them are reading this post, that they do not in any way feel this is a complaint against their hard work. It is VERY appreciated!)

1. Kieran’s was a nice venue… but… The music was a bit loud. It made visiting (which is what everyone was there for) difficult at times. Ambient background 80’s music is fun, but not as loud as it was.

2. I don’t know if it was the layout, or just human nature, but everyone clogged into the front third of the room, directly in front of the bar, the check in table, and the entry/exit. It was impossible to even try and make my way around the crowd while maintaining a bit of “personal space”, while the back two-thirds of the room was virtually empty.

3. I would have liked to seen a less “spur of the moment” photo opportunity. “Many Things Do Not Fly” had left not 5 minutes prior to an announcement that they wanted to take a group photo. I had heard nothing about a group photo earlier. Not having her in the photo was a shame.

4. At our five year reunion, the committee collected information about the attendees. Things like address, spouse, children, employer, and highlights since school, etc. They organized it into a booklet and everyone was given a copy. (You could opt out if you wished) It was interesting, and it felt like I got to catch up with people I did not get a chance to do so with in person. It also provided an opportunity for those who could not attend the reunion to partake in a small way. (I still have my copy)

The obvious question that I know you are asking (if you stuck with this posting so far without having hung yourself in bordem) is “Will I be attending my twenty-five year reunion?"

Ya-know… I think you are going to have to stick around, and tune in five years from now to find out!

1 comment:

  1. (Dear Anonymous Commenter - you were right about one and a half of the three "observations" - but in a "good way" - and that is what makes life intresting.)

    It is true, it's fun to think about the reunion, and then it's anticlimactic... what can you do? That's life

    I think your level of social anxiety is not abnormal. It parallels mine almost exactly. If I seem more outgoing it's because sometimes I talk myself out of my fears.

    Almost everyone in that room felt like you did, that they'd love to watch from a one-way mirror, but not be watched. Aren't we funny creatures?

    Wouldn't it be fun to try to imagine a setting where everyone got to feel comfortable, but we actually got to interact a little?

    I'm going to ruminate on that.

    Maybe like one of those 5 minute dating deals where you have to rotate through the crowd....Hmmm

    ReplyDelete

Did you reach the Bottom of this blog?

If you have read down to here and are interested in reading more, be sure to click here, click on the "Older Posts" link to your right, or use the "Archive" tool on the right sidebar. Thanks for visiting!