The Broad is Back!

October 31, 2009

Musings on class reunions

“I hear that you made something of yourself.”

I didn’t really understand that statement as a conversational gambit.  I must have looked blank, because she reworded it. 

“I hear you’re successful. You’re a doctor?” Not a statement, that, but a question.

Yes, I am a doctor, so does that make me successful?  On some scales, perhaps.  I don’t think of myself as successful—accomplished, yes.  Educated, most definitely, but have I attained the goals I want to attain?  Not all of them.

Unfortunately, I was at a venue that forced me to face how I felt about my life.

High school reunion. All those years. How do I feel about the experience now that it’s over? A little let down, I think.  Not that seeing people was a let down. I reconnected with some sweet people I was friendly with 30 years ago. Most are doing well, and I’m happy to see that. They are content with their lives, successful at what they do, and mostly healthy, and that makes me glad. 

There were other people there who didn’t talk to me at all.  No change. They didn’t talk to me 30 years ago, or 40 for that matter.  Most of them I went to school with from kindergarten on.  Geographical proximity should not be a reason to have to like someone, then or now, nor is it a reason to care what people think.

That’s the problem, though. Once upon a time, I did care, very much, what these people thought, and I let it upset me to the point that it affected the quality of my life. Some of those people bullied me something awful, and did pretty much up till sometime in my junior year.  By then, I started to grow up a bit, find my purpose, succeed at things others weren’t doing.  The summer before that year I was blessed with a trip to England, staying with an aunt and uncle.  Being off on my own in London every day helped me grow up and gain confidence.  Senior year I got very sick, so sick that I was initially told I would die within months.  Facing one’s own mortality at the age of 17 puts bullying into perspective very quickly.  Dealing with horrible pain helps one focus.  All of a sudden the opinion of people I didn’t care about fell far down on my list of things to worry about.  Not a method of dealing with bullying that I can endorse or recommend, but it worked for me.

So seeing many of those people, revisiting those feelings, was odd.  I don’t care—I am truly disinterested in their opinion about me and my life. (Unless, of course, they think I’m beautiful, witty, accomplished and interesting; then, please, tell me.  But somehow, I think that won’t be happening.)

Even with all of the personal emotions running around in my head, I tended to think about the event in a cultural context.

Americans seem to have a strong sense of nostalgia. Why do we hold class reunions? Could it be that we’re more mobile than many other cultures? We move a lot, so there’s more of a need for a homecoming.  I currently live about 50 miles from where I grew up. But there were people there from California, Florida, North Carolina and who knows where else? One of my best friends came from seven hours away, and she still lives in New York State.

People in other countries have reunions, but they seem bigger here, but that sounds American, too.  Bigger is better.  And ours seem more formalized. In other countries it didn’t seem as if people needed a zero in the years since graduation to get together—but we like the symmetry of 10, 20, 30.

I don’t like to look back. I think most people, deep down, didn’t love high school.  How could they? It happens right smack dab in the worst part of hormone hell.  We’re spotty, awkward, gauche, immature and confused, and that’s the best of us.  We’re tribal little beasts—enjoying being part of a clique, shunning those outside it.  As with many high schools in America, ours was dominated by the people who played sports—the jocks.  I was not a jock.  I was a nothing—I hung around with other non-jocks, but I was different even from many of those friends. 

Looking back, I can understand why.  I am the writer geek.  As genial as we all are, by nature we tend to stand on the outside and look in at life.  I wasn’t a loner, but I was separate, an observer.  And I think I scared some people.  I was smart, in honors classes, and a lot of my friends were not in the same classes.  Those honors classes were probably full of misfits and outsiders, though I was so busy being a misfit to notice other’s discomfort.  Back then there was no “geek chic”. We hadn’t been made “cool” thanks to films like Superbad and Napoleon Dynamite.

No, bad there we were just odd, and odd was bad.

I guess I should thank many of my classmates.  They prepared me well for a life lived as “Other” during my travels. And I think one of the reasons I enjoy living abroad is that I am odd, but when living abroad, that oddness is chalked up to my American-ness, so it’s exotic.  When I’m living in America, I’m just odd.

No real analysis here.  I just wanted to share the oddness that is a class reunion.




  1. Insightful post ! I don’t want to relive my HS years either. I came to the States for graduate school and am currently a postdoctoral research fellow @ one of the public universities. RU a medical or Ph.D. doctor?

    Comment by 刘慧娉 — October 9, 2010 @ 11:53 pm |Reply

    • A PhD, or as one EX date put it, “not a real doctor. Some people just don’t get it, you know? And I teach at a public university. Thanks for reading.

      Comment by maggiec — October 11, 2010 @ 4:39 pm |Reply

  2. “Dr.” is actually a Latin word for “teacher” . . . it is a title of experience and education . .. medical doctors have no hold on the title.

    Comment by 刘慧娉 — November 7, 2010 @ 12:05 am |Reply

  3. 刘慧娉, you are quickly becoming one of my favorite people 🙂 Must remember this. Latin was so not my forte. I feared I’d be the only ABL in the world. Luckily, I made it through.

    Comment by maggiec — November 7, 2010 @ 2:45 pm |Reply

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