Sunday, October 10, 2010
40 Years after high school
Last night I attended my 40th high school class reunion. It reminded me of how I'm getting older and hopefully wiser. Everyone was friendly and some people sat and talked with me like we were old friends. I think that happens as people get older. They want to explain about who they are and perhaps why they were the way they were in high school. High school wasn't a great experience for me. When I go to reunions I don't necessarily see people I hung out with. Having moved to Guthrie in 1968, in my junior year, it was hard to break into cliques of students who had grown up together since Kindergarten. The culture of the school was more diverse than where I had come from in Lawrence, Kansas with a population that was about 10% black to a population that was about 40% black. There was tension and some of the black students weren't any friendlier than the whites. I realized now, many years later, that in 1967 the blacks were forced to leave their high school and integrate with the white kids at the new high school so there was a lot of tension.
Every time I go I get new insights into the lives of the people who, at the time, seemed to have it altogether. In previous reunions some of the black students would come and visit with the white students and then leave to have their own party. This year, however, was the first year everyone stayed together. They hugged each other, shared stories and their lives. For me the experience helped me to understand how people change or maybe how my perception changes over the years.
One of my classmates apologized to me for having not been very nice to me in high school. I was both surprised and endeared that after all these years she had the courage to express her feelings and ask my forgiveness. I did remember her not being very friendly and sometimes saying things that were hurtful but all the pain of that was long gone. It was ironic, however, that another student who I remember not being very nice to me at high school, i.e. vandalizing my yearbook by scratching out a picture of a classmate she didn't like and then again refusing to speak to me at our first reunion, was now friendly and acted like we had been friends forever. I believe that she either didn't have a recollection of it or was too embarrassed to mention it. Either way I let bygones be bygones and just spent time getting to know who she is now. One thing I have learned from all of this is that people perceive you differently than you perceive yourself and the things that you thought were important are things they don't even remember. So why do I go? Probably to have some better understanding of myself and of those whom, at the time, seemed so important to me. I hope that in the end I'm better for it.