High school is one of life’s earliest, and ricketiest, rollercoasters, which few are properly harnessed in for. It is often the one ride that leaves the hesitant thrill seeker with a queasy sense that, perhaps, they should stick to land, instead.
For many, it is also an identity crisis saga and a chance to test the waters of all things not quite allowed. While some have the idyllic journey, whose experiences could be filled with a musical score only done justice to by the cast of Glee, I found that mine was more reminiscent of the hijinx from the motley horde in “The Breakfast Club” mixed with the squeaky clean teens in “Saved by the Bell.”
I did not have a defined niche in my four years as a Mustang; I fit nowhere and everywhere, a hybrid of Theatre, Journalism, Choir, and Advanced Academics. I was Advertising Editor on the newspaper staff, contributor to the Young Writer’s Guild publications, participated in plays and musicals, did the National Honor Society thing, and volunteered at MD Anderson in my spare time, while also holding down a job at the local YMCA.
I had a small foray into dating that resulted in two significant relationships, one with an amazingly talented fellow Thespian, and the other, my best friend who is a phenomenal artist and musician. They ended much differently than they began, but I’m thankful they also taught me about love and created in me a standard of measurement for every subsequent relationship afterward (there was only one after that—“the one”). Good grades, good friends, good times—in short, a full life “transcript.”
Shift scenes to my high school finale: Graduation day. I wore a powder blue gown, square hat with tassel, and a grin that belied the sense of trepidation lurking in the pit of my stomach, as I stood on the threshold of an era and looked forward, into the unknown. I had just experienced the roughest school year of my career, fraught with personal trauma, and did not have much to cling to, except the hope that new possibilities awaited me. I planned on a clean slate, free of the scribblings of the past.
Then, fast forward to my 20’s. I had fallen in love for good at 19, taught archery in the Texas hill country, had a stable on campus res life job at Sam Houston State U that brought me so many new friends, won a writing award from my mentor professor, graduated college (first one in my immediate family) AND did it Magna Cum Laude. Not quite ready for the job world, and still passionate for learning, I went for my Masters degree in English. After a fork in the road that led me back home, I married my college sweetheart, got certified as a teacher, and for nine years, taught English & Theatre back at our HS. In between, we globetrotted to Europe, built a house, and got a dog.
My 30’s have been less newsworthy, but the highlight reel includes a beautiful family to show for it. I’ve made it through the rebuild after a hurricane, become a parent twice, taken a serious left turn in my career away from teaching English, found a passion for my favorite subject again, moved houses, and decided to focus in on writing scripts for educational Theatre purposes. This most recent almost-decade of the early “adult” years seems like we are expected to have everything mapped out, but I like to think I’m leaving room for spontaneity. That’s not too shabby.
Move the hands of the clock forward about seven thousand, three hundred days, to where we are now. There’s nothing like a 20 year high school reunion to make you weigh the merit of the time you’ve used since that gown and tassel ceremony. Here we are, glancing over our shoulder to peek at the past, while also standing on the precipice of another life threshold, and I feel that same stomach lurch as I did before.
If I’m being entirely honest, I skipped out on my 10 year reunion out of a sense of inadequacy, then and now.
What held me back was knowing that so many of my classmates had found bigger and better horizons, skyrocketing to fame and glory, and never chose to circle back to their hometown. Sometimes it seems as if people saw me as someone who never took a risk. This time around, I threw judgment out the window and decided that it’s time to see these people I spent those hours, weeks, years with and not worry about measuring up.
Much like this year’s graduates, whose walk across the first big stage of their lives has been postponed and adapted due to this virus’ far reaching influence, our festivities have taken a similar transformation; however, I find a sense of gratitude for technology and its capacity to bring us together, though miles apart. Admittedly, I would not have been able to purchase a ticket to a physical haunt down memory lane to the original tropical destination that had been agreed upon. It was too costly for my small piggy bank, so this worked out in my favor. Thank you, Zoom.
Sunday night, I experienced such a sense of joy at seeing the now-grown adults who used to inhabit the teenage sphere I revolved in. I didn’t feel like my resume failed to muster the accolades, even though I was chatting with entrepreneurs, phenomenal artists in film/tv and Broadway, successful photographers, actors and singers in the “biz,” and many more. We played get-to-know-you-again games, told scandalous stories, and tossed out our favorite snippets of plays, events, or scenes in class that we enjoyed. Gosh, I laughed until my side hurt. It was truly a balm to my soul and it made me ask myself—what were you so afraid of?? I had to bow out early to tend to the tiniest human in my care, so I said my farewells and we all made promises to do this again, long before another decade swept by. I can’t wait.
I think Green Day said it best: “Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go, so make the best of this test and don’t ask why. It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time. It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.”
Here’s to the class of 2020, and to mine, too.
I hope you have the time of your lives. 💗
(begun 5.24.20; posted 5.26.20)