Drop In

This past weekend I attended my 10 year high school reunion. 

It was...enlightening. 

I had no idea what to expect, beyond the venue. It was at a place I had waited tables during my junior and senior years, working with a bunch of friends who all happened to be girls. All that afforded me, beyond the expectation of mediocre pizza and where exactly the restrooms were located, was the reminder that I was an odd duck. From what I gathered there, I think that same nature persists. At one point during the alcohol fueled festivities I looked around the room at how people had congregated and remarked to my better half "...nothing changes - dudes over there talking shop, girls over there kind of dancing, me watching and waiting for an appropriate time to leave." While that statement may have been more than a tad reductive and overly simplifying, I stand by it. 

This isn't some self-pity party, I should clarify. 

I wasn't the ostracized, beat-down outcast you see portrayed in the media, like a taped-horn-rim-glasses dweeb or some trench coat wearing demon. No, it was much more innocuous than that. My graduating class was under 70 people in a rather isolated area, socially and physically. It was a small town before the internet really grew roots. It's only natural that you pick a group of 60 to 70 strangers, lump 'em in together and subsequently fail to really connect with more than a few. I am not disparaging anyone for the fate of being born and raised in a scenic place like ours. Rather, I'm just expounding on the realization that I'm okay with understanding I really only connected with a handful of kids in high school. It's no fault of mine or anyone else's - do I take umbrage as an adult that not every single person in my office wants to go to a happy hour? Of course not. Nor should I have any long-since irrelevant feelings of rejection over not being one of the guys back then. I just wasn't my scene. We had nothing in common, and introducing a fair number of people to the love of my life I became more aware of this - I thought she was the bee's knees, where as most of these people would have no common ground over which to converse. Different circles, different lives. Had any of my close friends from this epoch of my life accompanied me, they most likely would have had a similar experience. 

To be fair, I also made little effort to be more like the typical dude. 

There were more than a handful of times it was apparent to me in high school (and earlier) that I didn't fit in, in that town. I was teased for being verbose, for dressing differently, for liking weird music, for playing the wrong music in my band, for not excelling at any sport besides (gasphorror) soccer. You name it. Did it stop me? Did it make me try to change myself to fit in? Nope, not a bit. I was stubborn. I also felt terrible about myself, but I didn't acquiesce - I just developed a healthy, mid-west WASPy sense of guilt about enjoying life and being happy. In their defense, though - I couldn't name a single other person I knew who liked Bjork or had seen Reservoir Dogs or loathed Bon Jovi. I was the statistical outlier, in this case, and I didn't make concerted efforts to find people around me who shared my tastes, although I did share some cultural overlap. There are still a number of albums that bring back memories of summertime road trips to cabins, a bunch of teenagers driving with the windows down, trying not to get ash on the car seats. These were the exception rather than the rule, though. I often questioned (and as a result, still do) my own taste. If I like something, does that mean it's terrible? 

Eh. Shrug. 

More than a handful of cats simply avoided the whole shebang. Even people who lived in town, less than a mile away, didn't attend the reunion. Some from spite, some from convenience. I don't know. I just know that any juvenile feelings of not belonging or being an outsider have long since dissolved. Not that they didn't influence me in a significant way, more so that they are vestigial, no longer needed in my life. High school was forever ago. I don't really care. There are people I stay in touch with and people I try to stay in touch with. It's on them just as much as on me to keep the connection. Similarly, when I walked in to the room I had a sense of heaviness. Not from dredged emotion or unresolved feelings, but from the realization I'd have to give the same story to about 40 people - I like who I am, I just get tired of the small talk. 

Maybe that's all it is, now. Realizing that even if you like yourself and are proud of who you are, you still have to grin and bear it. As I drove back to my real life, hours away and that whole part of my life in the rearview, I was surprisingly pleased with how I felt about the whole thing. It wasn't necessarily pleasant, but it wasn't torture. Getting older isn't always fun, but there are moments when you understand it's all for the best. Just play the hand you're dealt and try to smile as you do it.