My high school reunion is this weekend. 25 years. A quarter of a century. A long, long time ago in a place right around the corner from where I now live. (Apparently you CAN go home again.)
Hubs and I had fun at my 20th. We drank, we mingled, some pranksters switched their senior photo name tags, and I had no idea who they were. It felt like high school 2.0. Not in the improved sense, more in the “everyone is behaving the way they did back then but now we’re in our 30’s” sense.
I’m no longer really friends with any of the people I hung out with in high school. My then-bestie graduated a year ahead of me and lives down in North Carolina. Several of my good friends were also in her class, and we’ve lost touch over the years. Others have either fallen off the grid or drifted into new adult circles. It’s strange how many people from our high school are still friends with each other. Not me. I shed that skin like a snake in spring and am happy to have a fresh set of friends who can’t tell embarrassing stories about me. Okay, they CAN tell them, but at least the stories happened recently and not before my prefrontal cortex had fully developed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about THEN VS. NOW. How much do we change, really? When are we our most authentic selves?
Last night our friends were over, and we sat out on the deck, listened to Barenaked Ladies, and laughed about the ridiculous things our children do. One friend and I reminisced about CFNY, a radio station out of Toronto that was THE radio station of my teen years. Back then I made a mix tape by listening patiently, pressing record when my favorite songs came on, and inevitably catching the DJ promo over the first few bars. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I do still own that mix tape and all my other mix tapes despite the fact that I no longer have the ability to listen to them thanks to my new tapedeck-less minivan. Pardon me while I weep a little.) Now, I can go to YouTube or library streaming and cue up my faves. I’m listening to The Lightening Seeds while I type this and feel transported to my angsty sixteen-year old self. “Don’t sell the dreams you should be keeping.” Yup.
There are days when I miss that version of myself. Young and free of wrinkles and adult responsibilities. Look at this girl. She is happy, in her element, ready to take on the world. I didn’t give a crap about what people thought about me. Okay, maybe I did. But I was in theater (this photo was taken backstage during our performance of The Crucible — I may have let being the lead get to my head) and loved being on stage. Loved the attention as long as it meant I got to be someone else.
I still do. Our babysitter came to expect strange costumes and makeup whenever she came over as we’ve been known to attend a themed event or two. Or ten.
What else has changed/not changed? Then: the majority of my wardrobe came from my brother’s closet (see jeans above) and the thrift store. Now: everything I’m wearing today came from a second hand clothing store and my shoes and purse were my mom’s. I’m not cheap (okay, maybe a little), but I’ve never put value in things. I’d rather spend my money on experiences and my time doing anything but shopping.
Then: I loved playing soccer. Now: I watch it. Tried to coach it. Desperately miss the days when I could run without my knees aching. Practice yoga instead.
Then: I felt safe with my group of friends, but never really fit the suburban mold. Now: Same. We came back here to raise our boys; it’s a great little town and I have good friends who I adore, but in my soul I know this is not where I belong. Where that is exactly, I’m not sure. Hopefully I have a few more decades to figure that out. In the meantime I try to take advantage of every opportunity to be my authentic self. The one who makes crude jokes and laughs too loud, who isn’t afraid to speak her mind or dance alone on the dance floor while singing off-key, who is fiercely loyal to the point of getting burned.
Then: I may have appeared confident on the surface, but I worried all the time. Still do. Only now I have the courage to push past the fear and anxiety and go after the things I want. 25 years has at least given me that, along with gray hairs I will be dyeing tomorrow just in time for the reunion. Hey, it’s still my authentic self. Just a bit more improved. Version 2.0.