Postscript: A high school reunion and the struggle to fit in

Last August I wrote in this space about the imprint on our lives three or four years in high school can make. We often carry the insecurity of our high school years all the way to our graves, “or at least our 45th reunion,” I wrote at the time. Mine was coming up.

Rachel Martin of NPR had just aired an interview with a classmate in Idaho who felt like an outsider during those years. He was also her class president, usually the most popular kid in the class.

“High school is like surgery,” he said. “In a lot of ways necessary, but in the past and you’re better off having survived it.”

This weekend was my 45th reunion, so we flew back to Massachusetts.

The kids from the Class of 1992 were having their reunion in the ballroom next door. The poor things. They’re just kids, still making small talk by asking “what do you do?”, as if that’s still a big part of who we are.

I heard the question only once last night in our much smaller gathering. “Are you still working for liberal radio?” he asked, before relaying that he once spent time working in Detroit Lakes before escaping to the safety of his hometown.

For the rest, it was as if we’d never lost a connection though nearly half a century has passed, with age freeing us from the chains of needing to impress one another, allowing an even more intimate personal connection to the people who were imprinted upon us in the ’60s and ’70s.

The crushes we had, the aging parents we have, the mental illnesses and physical ailments that dog us, the search for the babies we gave up from high school pregnancies, the husbands and wives and children we’ve buried, the appreciation we have in our life’s later days for those who occupy a place in the heart that is never abandoned.

I suspect Rachel Martin’s old classmate will one day, too, come to this point of comfort, though it remains a tragedy of time that it takes us so long for the realization to come that we all fit in.

But it comes, nonetheless.