Yesterday I went to my high school reunion. The reunion is actually a three-day affair, but one day is really all I can handle. It's the first reunion I ever attended.
It was ... interesting.
I attended a couple of classes and that was great. The interaction, depth of discussion and mutual respect among the students wasn't just a time-induced hallucination on my part. These kids really do delve into the material with very little teacher prompting or leading. As I told Mr. Vorkink, after sitting in on one of his senior religion classes, "This place ruined me for education." It showed me an ideal that I very rarely have gotten to revisit since I left. My college students rarely discuss things (unless I put them into small groups); they report their opinions to me sequentially, almost never picking up and building on what the previous person said. Maybe what's great about the Harkness method is not just that everyone talks, it's that everyone listens.
So yeah, that part was great. Seeing people I haven't seen in a couple of decades, and then some, was, at times, almost like hallucinating. A face would trigger a flash to a moment or an image I hadn't considered in all those years time. It was exhausting, in a way. None of my really close friends from those years attended, but there were plenty of people I knew. I also realized that the setting for almost all my nightmares of being late for class, not being able to find the right classroom, not knowing the subject for the final for the class I forgot to attend all semester, the setting for all those academic nightmares I still suffer with some regularity, was Phillips Hall. Good to see the marker of my slumberous angst in all its solid, gracious glory after all these years.
The cocktail hour and dinner was somewhat of an overload for me and brought back almost every old concern that I'm not good enough, smart enough or rich enough to be part of that world. So many lawyers, venture capitalists, finance types and doctors. Actually, the doctors tend to have turned out to be pretty cool people. I mean, everyone was nice, but hearing about the constant global business travel, African safari vacations, the summers on the Cape, and all those business cards with VP of something making lots of money written on them, what I do, lecturing at the state uni and living a small and normal life, made me start to feel inadequate. The two things that seemed to uphold my credibility were the 12 years I spent living in Japan and that I am a parent.
I could have gone back and spent today at the reunion, but yesterday was enough. I got to talk with some very nice people I never really knew when I was in school with them, I got to hug some folks I haven't seen in a really long time, and I was really happy to be sought out and warmly greeted by someone who, in retrospect, I had often wondered if my callous teenage self had treated with less care and concern than he deserved.
And one lesson learned way too late: don't put an idiotic photo that you unwisely think is so cool in your yearbook. You will have to wear the damn thing around all day long 25 years later.