On my high school reunion: “Time makes you bolder”

photo used courtesy Walker Photography

photo used courtesy Walker Photography

As I wrote in my “mean girls” post, my 30th high school reunion was this past weekend.  I’ve gone to all of our reunions, but not like this.  In the past I’ve always gone with my husband;  only attended the main event on Saturday night; and spent most of  my time with my close friends from high school.  But this time only a couple of my friends were going, Mr. Right wasn’t traveling with me, and I decided to do the whole weekend blowout.  I didn’t make it into town in time for the Homecoming parade, but I was there for the tailgate party, football game, post game meetup at a local bar, and the main event on Saturday night.

This was kind of a big deal.

As I said in my earlier post, I enjoyed high school, but I was a shy, insecure kid and found my safety in sticking close to a tight knit band of friends.  After high school I left town and never looked back.  What mattered most to me, beyond family,  was a very small group of people.  When they scattered away to college and jobs in other places, my hometown didn’t feel like home anymore.

And then, at some point, my perspective changed.  As the awkward memories of adolescence faded I began to appreciate the place I came from, and all the people that made up my life there – all of them, freaks and jocks and mean girls and artists, wonderful teachers and terrible ones, too.  So when I found out that our group (posse?  clique?) was going to be underrepresented at this reunion, I decided to plunge in with both feet and try to get reacquainted with the rest of my class – or at least the ones who would show up for our 30th reunion.

I gave myself quite a pep talk in the car as I traveled home, about the shortness of life and the high cost of living in fear.  Fear shaped too much of what I did and said in high school; and for that matter, fear has played too big a part of my adult life, as well.  I’m tired of it. I’m tired of living a life cramped by anxieties that I’m not good enough or don’t belong, that I’m not one of the “cool kids”.  By the time I reached Sedalia, I felt like I’d taken a magic potion to instill confidence.  “I really don’t care what anyone thinks of me,” I told a close friend as we headed to the party Saturday night.  And I meant it!  That’s darn near miraculous.

And it was awesome.  My memory is terrible, so I was forced to say, over and over, “I’m sorry, can you help me out? Remind me of your name?”  But few people seemed bothered by that.  What was weirder was how many people remembered me.  In my mind’s eye I see my high school self as a little eccentric (I wanted to be Jewish, for instance, earning myself the nickname “la Judia rubia” in Spanish class), but quiet, timid and very forgettable.  But something about me seems to have stuck with people, even with the “cool kids”.  It made me feel, retroactively, a little bigger than a bug.  Like a gerbil, maybe, or a finch.

We cheered on the football team, even though the bleachers were hard on our creaky backs.  We yelled over bar noise, complaining to each other about our kids and their gadgets.  We sang our junior high fight song, honored our deceased classmates, laughed at our yearbook pictures, danced badly and marveled over how old we’ve gotten.  Middle aged white women tried to learn to twerk (I sat that one out, wisely).  A classmate who still hasn’t lost her coolness performed “Rapper’s Delight”, and we cheered her memory for lyrics.  Some people wanted to talk about my “mean girls” post, but no one really admitted to being a mean girl.  My theory now is that few people are that self-aware – including me, so who am I to judge?

It was fun to tell people that I’m a pastor now, and see their reactions.  All positive, I’m happy to report.  Many people responded by telling me about their own church involvement.  One classmate who I remember as a stoner is now the head of the elder board at a Baptist Church.  Another classmate responded to the news that I’m a pastor by saying, “Well, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior…and I’ve only had four beers tonight!”

No beer was necessary for me to feel warm and affectionate toward all those people with whom I’d shared the journey through high school. I was glad to see those familiar faces (“But I’m sorry, what was your name again?”); I was glad they were still dancing and laughing and that somehow the wrinkles and gray hair didn’t obscure entirely the children that we were together, such a long time ago.

I felt freer than I have in a long time:  free of self consciousness and worry and responsibility.   I said to a friend, “I’m not stressing about looking old and fat in the pictures tonight.  Any picture in which I look joyful, I will consider a good picture.”  I wound up in a lot of pictures, and I look joyful in almost every one.

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About Sharon Autenrieth

Wife, mom to 5, homeschooler, Christian Education Director, idealist, malcontent, follower of Jesus.
This entry was posted in aging, memories. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to On my high school reunion: “Time makes you bolder”

  1. Sharon, it was really nice seeing you during our class reunion. Sorry I didn’t get to chat much with you as I was so busy documenting our class in photographs. I really didn’t get to visit with many. But seeing us back together again as the Class of 1983 from Smith-Cotton High School. Our class was quite the unique group of young adults growing into our own. But having us all back together as a unit, that felt like home. Living still here is Sedalia, I don’t see too many classmates that still live here. Once in awhile we do cross paths and say Hi and try to chat a little. After reading your story, I can appreciate how you felt growing up and also going to class reunions. There were many times during our years of high school with me getting bullied and I have be able to get past that. Time does heal. I noticed during our reunion that the cliques reappeared but they also branched out to visit with all. It was a great reunion and I wished more of our classmates could have made the trip but for one reason or another, their lives were not meant to cross with all of ours at that time. Hope you have a wonderful day. See you next time!!!

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    • Kevin, it did occur to me that you sacrificed a lot of socializing in order to take photos. But seriously, what a gift to give us! I’m so thankful that you were willing to do that for us, although I wish we’d had more time to talk with you, too. 🙂

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  2. Wm Scott Rose says:

    Sharon,
    Thanks for the great article you wrote! I truly enjoyed reading it. I think it describes how life is at that age…who we were, and who we have become as adults! Things change and so do a lot of people. I was shy and insecure in school too! Maybe not as much in High School, but in elementary school for sure. I struggled with school,Thought I was the dumb kid! I had to go to special classes for reading comprehension. Something that I struggle with even today! My parents decided to hold me back a year in the 3rd grade which then devastated me. I got bullied and made fun of, until I stood up for myself. I realize now it was the best thing for me. I got involved in sports about that time too and found out that I was good at something. Sports gave me the confidence that I needed to help me through a lot of struggles that I had. It did give me the confidence that helped me in school too! I think your paragraph that talked about how your perspective had changed was great! At the next reunion…the good Lord willing I would love to talk to you. Oh by the way…I think you are one of the “Cool Kids” 🙂

    Regards,
    Wm Scott Rose

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  3. Kathy (Mishler) Schnakenberg says:

    I really enjoyed your article! I have only attended one class reunion…I was really not close with anyone in the “core” group that seems to attend so I have avoided them so I don’t stand in a corner alone! However, I do still feel a connection to the faces in the pictures I see on social media from the reunions and sometimes wish I had made more of an effort to get to know more people while I was in school. I am sure I am one that no one remembers and you would have to ask my name for sure, but I wanted to let you know I enjoyed your article and wanted to pat you on the back for stepping out of the box for the rest of us!

    Kathy (Mishler) Schnakenberg
    Class of 83′

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