Let Us Now Praise High School Friends
Life is the process of gathering an intricate mosaic of emotional scars. Reunions can be times to pick at the scabs and develop new scars, or to find the beauty in some of the patterns. For me, my thirty-fifth high school reunion fell more into the later category.
I've always worried about how much I can say in my blog posts about family members, classmates, and coworkers. Will my words upset some? Am I saying more than I should? I self-edit my comments, and so some of what happened at the Williams Inn will stay at the WIlliams Inn.
Prior to the reunion, I agreed to go on a hike in Hopkins Memorial Forest. As I waited for other classmates to show up, I looked for some reading material to help me enjoy my time waiting for the hike to being. I stumbled across Look Homeward, Angel and started reading. I've read parts of this and other works by Wolfe at other times, it it seemed somehow appropriate.
The walk ended up being just a classmate of mine and myself. Both of us had recently had a parent die, in very different circumstances and so our memories were intermixed with grief. We talked about other classmates that had been mutual friends that were not going to be able to make it to the reunion. The emotional scars of these recent losses were still bright, and yet we were able to find some beauty.
At the reunion, we all soon broke into our traditional groups. Popular students gathered boisterously around the bar. Others, oblivious to some of these dynamics sat quietly at tables and talked. One of my classmates spoke about how her husband had been oblivious to her overtures to him in the early days of their courtship. Another spoke about how he didn't really think there were cliques in our class. I sat amongst the oblivious, looking for patterns.
Perhaps cliques are too strong a word, and I spoke about stratification. We all tend to self-select people that we are most comfortable being with and this self-selection stratifies a population by various factors, interests, socio-economic status, which town we lived in when we were young, and many others.
As we get older, we experience more losses, we develop new emotional scars and hopefully, we learn a little bit along the way. These losses in our later years can be very profound, but often those emotional scars from our high school years can be much deeper and hurt much more.
I was timid in my youth. I didn't share my thoughts or feelings readily, out of fear of being laughed at or ridiculed. Then, I would be hurt because no one seemed to be aware of my thoughts of feelings. In retrospect, my folly is obvious, but at the time, all that was obvious to me was my own hurt.
Another thing that was not obvious to me was that others had similar suffering. Even those, whom to me seemed the happiest and most popular, I later found had similar pangs of self-perceived inadequacy.
With thirty-five years of emotional scars layered upon those of my high school years and the revelations that come along with it, I was less timid and more open to listening to my classmates. I found I could move beyond the group of people I was most comfortable with and talk with a wide array of classmates.
I found the stories of my classmates beautiful and moving, fitting nicely along side the great writings of people like Thomas Wolfe, James Agee,William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I found the beauty in the patterns of intricate mosaics of emotional scars of my classmates.
It was a wonderful reunion and I thank all the friends from high school, especially those whose friendships I had never really recognized or appreciated.