Oh, man, the high school reunion. I had built this thing up in my mind, thinking people were going to judge me for not having a husband or babies or a high-powered career. I had insisted to everyone, even to Doug, as late in the game as yesterday afternoon while we were getting ready, that “all I have is the fact that I’m still skinny.”
“Wow. Thanks,” he said. But he had been the one who’d asked whether the whole night was going to be a game of my classmates trying to one-up each other. And if that was going to be the case, my body was the only card I had to play!
As it turns out, though, it wasn’t. Lots of people were still skinny, so no one cared that I was. And similarly, no one cared that I wasn’t married or had no babies or worked in a grocery store. Facebook has ruined the game of one-ups. It has also ruined our ability to have interesting conversations with our one-time classmates. We already know what each other is up to; who’s married, who’s having kids, who’s a doctor, who’s traveling the world.
In fact, the only thing I really learned last night was that my friend’s mom had passed away two days before. And I came across this information because my friend was there at the reunion, looking beautiful and only occasionally teary-eyed, resolving to go on with her life.
Which is really all any of us can do, in any situation.
For my part, I got a lot of compliments on my dress. I got a lot of compliments on my writing. I stood back and marveled at how most of the women looked the same – only better put-together, with shorter skirts and more makeup – and it was the men who’d changed. I caught up with an old choir friend, who made the drunken observation that, “It’s like being in a bar, and looking up and saying, ‘Hey, I think I went to high school with that person,’ over and over again.” I found that, when people asked what I was doing with my life, I could give them the answer I’d given my therapist a few weeks ago:
I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I’m writing. It’s affecting people, eliciting a response in them; I’m making connections. I don’t need to get money for it, when I can get money for my work at the grocery store, and keep writing as something I enjoy.
And it felt totally honest, and right, and true. As though I had never worried about whether I should be trying to make it as a writer, whether working in a grocery store to pay my bills was selling out. As though I had never been anything but proud of myself and my life.
And I am.
Of course, despite having a fabulous dress and a completely unreserved public voice through this blog, I am still as shy as ever in large group settings. And I couldn’t help but wish that the event was quieter, or smaller, or somehow more personal, to give me the chance to have real conversations with some of the people I hadn’t seen in ten years.
But that sort of reunion was waiting for me the following morning.