Everybody's coming back to take stock of their lives. You know what I say? Leave your livestock alone.
I'm standing where my, uh, living room was and it's not here because my house is gone and it's an Ultimart! You can never go home again, Oatman... but I guess you can shop there.
I consider myself to be a fairly confident person. When I meet someone I don't generally have a difficult time talking to them, even if I think that the person doesn't like me. I can talk to a person and feel completely at ease, without even considering the fact that I might be some annoying weirdo whom they are too polite to tell off or walk away from. Every now and then I'll realize this in retrospect, but even then, I don't really care. It's all about confidence and being assured of who I am and realizing that if a person doesn't like me then I shouldn't really care. On top of that, I make enough friends to believe that unless the person is an asshole, they'll probably like me, well enough.
So, why, when I think about my 10 year high school reunion do I want to go shrink down into a hole a hide?
You see, I haven't always been the confident person you see today. When I was in Jr. High (Middle School to some of you) I, like many people, was self-conscious about a number of things. I worried about how cool I was, what I was wearing: did I have cool shoes, pants, was I wearing the latest haircut? I worried about whether or not girls liked me. Oh, this was a biggie! I was very concerned with how I came across to girls. I remember having a crush on a girl and speaking to her, only to say something totally nerdy and cringing, pain shooting through my gut, as if I were going to puke. Of course, there was also gym class, where, in eighth grade, as many of the other boys were hitting puberty, I was, regrettably, only getting chunky and remaining hairless. One very tall eighth grade boy looked down on me from above and proclaimed, "Kyle, did you shrink?" I felt like I had shrunk.
Scenes like this one had a lasting impression on me into high school. While I eventually stopped trying to get into the popular crowd, I was still keenly aware of how I came off to people. Especially my sophomore year I wanted to make sure that I didn't seem to care too much, but I didn't want to be a loner either. Or maybe I did want to be a loner. Screw those other people! What do I care what they think. I'll be my own person and do my own thing. So, I sat in my room and learned guitar and wrote angsty, dramatically selfish songs set to three or four chords strummed out on my mom's acoustic guitar. I was also in theatre and band, where the other weird people were. But, they weren't that weird, because oddly enough I still felt like an outcast.
At the end of my sophomore year in high school one of my teachers sat me down and basically gave me a "stop feeling sorry for yourself" talk. At least that's how I ultimately interpreted it, and that's how it was used. I had a new outlook on life. I was to take matters into my own hands and decide my own future, instead of blaming people for my shortcomings. After that year my brother went off to college. I began to learn about college life and how things there are different. People were kinder, cared less about popularity and stupid things like this. They judged the person and not the clothes.
I entered my Junior year with a new attitude. While I made more and closer friends than I'd had in the past, there was still this itching feeling that I was disliked or disrespected. Those close to me liked me, but there were those who didn't want to get to know me. I always thought that it was because they knew the old me and had a preconceived idea of who I was. Even though I cared less what others thought of me, I still wanted them to like me! My new goal was to simply ride out high school and get to college. In college no one would be able to say "in jr. high Kyle was this," or "Kyle freshman year, he did that." I would be able to reinvent myself as someone everyone loved. The way it should be.
And, that's basically what I did. I was able to endear myself to a very tight group of people who became my best friends. Most of those people I am still close to, or at least keep in contact with. College was an excellent boost to my self-esteem. Even with people who didn't warm up to me, it was a non-issue, because I was loved and appreciated by my group. Even though I had friends in high school, some were even close, I was never part of a "group." The belonging made all the difference. I could finally begin a journey to truly be myself, and be happy with that person.
Fast forward to 2007. I have now been teaching high school for 4 years, now. I see, on a daily basis the exact kinds of things that I dealt with in high school. One might think that someone who didn't like high school wouldn't want to go back, even as a teacher. There's always the evil side of a person that makes them want to "seek revenge" or something like that. It's weird. I have actually found myself forming bonds with kids, as a teacher, that I probably would have thought hated me. And then, I came to a realization. In jr. high especially, but high school also, every other kid was just as preoccupied worrying about their own mini-dramas that they didn't put nearly the kind of thought into me as I thought they had.
With all of this new found confidence you'd think that I was prepared to stroll into the reunion and be totally at ease and cool. Why not? That's how I am in pretty much every other situation. Or, else I'd have the fortitude to say that I don't even want to go to the damn thing, and mean it, and then not go.
But, I want to go! But, why, when,whenever I think about these people I revert back to the scared guy who was so afraid of saying something stupid or not getting invited to the parties. What's wrong with me.
I think the answer comes back to the reason that people go to reunions in the first place. I have this underlying feeling that the people who are going back to this thing are one of a few types of people. One, they've got a great, tight group of friends who've all decided that they're going back. These people never really lost touch anyway, but they have people to go with. I know that I'm not in that group. Two, there are people who genuinely knew lots of people and had lots of friends and would like to see what everyone's up to, nowadays. I would like to think that this is my group, but I fear that I'm in group number three. Three is the guy, or girl, who feels that they have something to prove. That high school dealt them a raw deal and that since bettering themselves they want to prove to the classmates who shunned them, that they are no longer shunable. They are basically going to be disappointed because, as I already stated, those other kids didn't think of them that way. Furthermore, this ploy is totally transparent, and no one is going to react with awe and surprise and remorse because you've got that six pack abs that so eluded you back in the day. They don't remember being a tool to you in high school. They might still be a tool, who knows? I don't think that I'm in this group, or at least I hope I'm not. Surely, I can't be, seeing as how I created the group.
At the end of the day, I suppose that I'm in my own little fourth group. The group of people who over think the reasons for going just like they over thought their own cosmic significance during high school to begin with. Or, maybe I'm just like everyone else. Scared that I haven't changed enough, or that I've changed so much that shouldn't even go, even though I really want to for some unknown reason. Maybe everyone else gets that feeling like they are revisiting old wounds whenever they encounter high school junk, and I should get over it and go, be myself, and know that it's going to fine, because I'm always fine. Part of my changed person is that attained confidence and self-esteem and I should just use it.
I'd be remiss to leave out the amount of confidence I get from my wife. Amanda is the kind of person that I always hoped that I'd marry. When I'm with her I feel totally in control because she wouldn't love me if I weren't the person who I am. And she knows me for the person I truly am. I can't help but be myself with her with me, because she'd certainly call me on it. Plus, she's a smokin' hottie, and when she's with me how could I not feel like the man.
And one last quote from a great movie:
Okay, well, I'll see you at the "I've peaked and I'm kidding myself" party.