I decided to put up a post because on July 22nd I had my 20th High School reunion and it got me doing a lot of thinking. The following were my pre-reunion thoughts...
I graduated from Colchester High School in 1997, by the skin of my teeth. Due to some slacking in years past I had to work hard my senior year to graduate on time. I took night classes and even one through the mail to gain enough credits. I only found out 3 days before graduation that I could indeed walk with my intended class. However unlike most people who chose to walk with a close friend or significant other I got stuck with some kid I don't remember I think his name was Jessie? (The pic there is with my cousin Kyle on graduation day who is now 28 and running for city council in Bridgeport, CT. We've both come along way.)
We had a 10 year reunion but I don't remember it too well. I was at UVM at the time and doing well but I hadn't even moved away for a long time yet. Just a short month stint in Virginia in 2000. I hadn't really grown up yet. I always like to say I grew up in Vermont but became a man in Wisconsin. That wouldn't come until I was 29 in 2008... Now I've seen so much more and done so many awesome things since... Of course none of them were getting married, having kids, or buying a home... I feel like I'll be a bit different from the lives of my classmates, but that's ok. Each of us have our own path, they aren't all the same, and sometimes they aren't that interesting, but if you're happy with where you are sometimes the path there isn't your story. For me it always will be and I'm proud of that. (Pic over there is me as the CHS mascot Champ, the legendary Lake Champlain lake monster. Look at all that hair, eh? I liked being the mascot but hanging around the cheerleaders was really the side hustle here.)
That said as I look back on 20 years of being out of H.S. I always say that I wish I could go back in time and tell a Freshman year Pich' to "Chill out... none of this really matters in like 6 years." When I was in school that was everything. It was your social life, your work life, everything... one misstep in the lunch room could make you a laughing stock for years. One moment getting pantsed in gym class away from being a lonely boy until after graduation when you can really get out there and spread your wings. It was a jungle in there, and I was glad to get out... although truth be told, as a townie who didn't leave for college and still coached football the following season I didn't exactly make zero appearances on CHS grounds after graduating. I mean where else would I pick up high school girls? And as we learned from Matthew McConaughey I do get older and they do stay the same age. (The pic up there is my buddy Nick Wilder jamming in the lunch room.)
(Pic over there is me and my date Jess Buchanan for my senior prom... I would end up going to 2 more proms after this one and had been once the year prior.) Anyway I decided to look back at the last 20 years and make a list of things I learned. I'm incapable of remembering everything but here are things I learned that shocked my way of thinking from my H.S. days....
1. Chill out. I said it before, I'll say it again. The stress put on that time of life was so major for how important it would end up being in the 20 years since. Maybe it was because I was learning to cope with anxiety or my ADHD, which weren't things back then, but I wish I had been more laid back and friendly instead of withdrawn and quiet at times. I could have been a better classmate.
2. Stop trying to get a girlfriend! In H.S. I was preoccupied with how I was coming off and giving it so much energy that I was often single. As I've since learned if you care less things work out... I mean in the 20 years since I've dated more girls I went to High School with than I did while I was in there. The sadder part was I wasted a lot of time on things that were never successful. At least if I had been getting some it would have been somewhat worth realizing why so much time went wasted leading to...
3. I should have worked harder in classes. I was bored in a lot of classes. I wanted to learn stuff I wanted to know, not stuff forced upon me. I often didn't read assigned books, or skipped homework assignments... I never really set myself on a path to go higher in learning. High school killed my want to learn for awhile. I still hate reading. Can't remember the last time I read a book, and the idea of reading for fun makes me wretch. Still if I could have seen that light at the end of the tunnel... that college will allow you to learn about things you want to know then maybe I would have set myself up better. I blame myself, and also my guidance councilors. It seems everyone is pushed to college these days, but I never really felt like people at the school put me, or guided me down that path and I'm not alone. I don't have stats to back it up but I'd say maybe half of our class went directly to higher learning? Maybe? I eventually found my way, but those are tales for another blog.
4. Most people don't remember that I went to Rice High School for the first quarter of my freshman year. I wanted a fresh start and started playing football while I was there, but I quickly soured on Rice for many reasons and returned to Colchester. Where, due to the class equivalences to the ones I had at Rice, I was placed in some classes ahead of my class with sophomores as a freshman and others I didn't start until the next year. Some like "Scripture" were lost altogether. Therefore I didn't have a lot of traditional class with my class. Even before attending the class of '97 reunion I know I need to crash the class of '98's reunion. I hung out with more people in that class and was only a credit away from graduating with them the next year.
Ok... I had gotten this far before the reunion but now here are my thoughts after the reunion...
I met up with Ms. Jenn Lavalley before the event. We had agreed to go as each others date. First of all we had gone from Kindergarten at St.Francis Xavier all the way to Graduation in the same class so it seemed right, and also better than the prospect of showing up alone... plus Jenn and I enjoy each others company so this just made sense.
The greetings, catching-up, and memories soon began. Before even getting in to the room it was exchanging pleasantries with people in the lobby and even being invited to the pool by other, lesser dressed, hotel guests.
I'm sure we all told the same version of our what we are doing now. Not once was I asked if I am, or ever was married, which was cool. No one ever asked how many garages my house has, or what my net worth was. Much like in High School I had needlessly assumed certain things would happen that wouldn't. It's weird how seeing these folks separately might have turned out differently than seeing them all together. As was said by many folks even though we had our cliques there was always some overlap and no one was ever shunned.
As I caught up with people I used to hang with I realized how introverted many of them were. They even admitted as such. As I watched the dancing vs. non-dancing I didn't feel out of place not cutting a rug. Rather I felt like that was my place. I was sober, still tall, and last I checked still very white. I was better off chatting, making jokes, and entertaining the other non-dancers. Everyone has a role to play. And even though a drunker me might have busted out the worm, the sober me was right on brand. By the way, would anyone have guessed that the night superlative for most dancing would go to Bobbi-Jo and Radim?
It was fun to see how much everyone had changed, or in many cases not changed. For the most part the ladies stayed or got more beautiful, and many of the fellas were rocking the effects time had had on their hair... either rocking the grey, or embracing the bald.
As the night wore down and some went home, a pack of others continued to party deep in to the night. I wish I could have been on that track but I had DD responsibilities. Maybe in 10 years we can do it again?
Hats off to Courtney Clark who put the whole thing together and really did a fantastic job!
For me it was a weird weekend of reunion and memories when you add that my family is selling the homestead and this was my final time there. It was an overload of times of the past and almost every-time of my life was covered...
So there it was... Colchester High School Class of '97, the 20-year reunion. Maybe next time we podcast it or Facebook Live the whole thing, or whatever other social media fad pops up between now and then. Forever Laker!