Sunday, April 29, 2007

The High School Reunion Complex

Last year we tried to kick-start the old essay site, The Juxtaposition, and though the restart failed, I wrote an essay about an impending 10-year high school reunion.

I still agree with the gist of it - that people secretly desire to attend their high school reunion - not to reunite with old friends, but rather to boast of their post-high school achievements. The achievements are relative, in the sense that for some "achieving" is exemplified by a degree or M.D., for others it's a trophy wife or husband, and yet others it's having kids. The point is in high school people discover what their deficiencies are, and determine what they need to do to be accepted.

The return to the high school reunion is a declaration - "You all laughed at me way back when, but look now... I've taken steroids and workout 12 hours a day, or I'm a doctor/lawyer/socially-regarded professional, or 'have you met my surgically-enhanced wife?'" Or some sort.

The Juxtaposition essay concluded with the realization that the reunion is a great hoax. For no matter how much one has changed in ten years, everything returns to the way it was. The weakness the person saw in themselves ten years before is a delusion, and accomplishing that thing to fulfill the delusion for the reward of being "accepted" is a fantasy. For the truth is no matter what they accomplish they will never be cool, for that is the way of our society.

(The great secret of America is we live in a class-based society but never, ever admit it. The established class maintains their place and the lower classes try desperately to achieve their way to acceptance. And of course no matter how much they achieve they will never be accepted. The only way to achieve status in America, without being born into it, is celebrity. Sorry, I digress.)

The high school reunion recreates the boundaries of high school, and the cool kids are still cool because they were cool, and no matter how much one has changed can change that.

Of course I wrote all of the above and then never went to my high school reunion. All I really cared about was connecting with old friends, and what better way to do that than MySpace?

Recently, I thought about that essay because I think it applies to any situation in life where one returns to a past environment, like meeting an ex-girlfriend for example. Trying to show someone how much you've changed, only to fall back into the old patterns of frustration, results in a mental complex, what I hereby dub the High School Reunion Complex.

I can't explain it, I wish I could. But the solution seems simple enough - just move on.

1 comment:

KStringer said...

Having attended my 10 year high school reunion, I think I can agree with some of what you have stated, but not all of it.

The high school reunion is a multi-faceted milestone in our modern lives that is one part reuniting with old friends, one part showing off, one part "whatever happened to that old flame", and for many, several parts closure or at last progress in that regard.

At my reunion I was very curious about how others that I remembered had progressed with their lives and I saw it all - those that had succeeded far beyond expectation, those that had really done nothing with their lives, those that chose the family life, and everything in between. One thing I noticed was that it really didn't matter who was cool in high school, for many of them weren't so "cool" 10 years later. Perhaps it's because being cool took up so much of their time that they never really learned any useful skills for how to succeed after high school.

Of course each of us wants to make a declaration of our accomplishments to our high school class. It is this group of people that is instrumental in definining much about who we are as adults. This is simply an societal evolution of human behavior. We all want to be recognized, to be noticed, to be respected in some fashion. High School is a time of insecurity and anxiety for most of us (or so I believe) and being able to overcome those insecurities and stand tall and proud among these peers is a major psychological milestone for a lot of people, myself included.

I disagree that the high school reunion is a great hoax. I think for many, such as myself it is a time of closure. We are all insecure to some degree I believe and the realization that I had succeeded when so many thought I would fail as well as seeing first hand the very normal successes (family, jobs, etc.) of my class mates made me realize that my drive to cast down the perceived perception my classmates had of me was flawed thinking on my part. It helps to see these people, whom their memories are sometimes so much larger than life, whether good or bad, 10 years later. You can realize then that they are the same as you and that they were the same as you in high school.

I ran into two dear friends at my reunion who I have remained close to ever since though we had lost touch up to the reunion itself. If for no other reason than that, I am glad I went.

Your statement about the "high school reunion complex", where we run into someone from our past and fall into old patterns is very true. Yet, I hope that people can mature enough that they do not fall prety to this condition. Again, it's an opportunity for closure...or as you put it, "...just move on".