I thought I’d matured, but I felt a familiar wave of insecurity going back to school. It all came back: the cliques, the gossip and the physical scrutiny. A reunion could be a living nightmare. Who really wants to return to high school?
Dalton, but it was tough. The class of ‘85 was assigned the library, and did I ever want to escape into a book, just like I used to. Instead I made the rounds and talked to almost everybody. It was especially nice to thank some of my former teachers. I had an excellent education.
About 40% of our class of 100 had returned and several of us had been in school together for 15 years. Everyone remembered me, but there were some I had difficulty recognizing. Time had changed men more than women physically, but the group dynamics hadn’t shifted.
The good news is most people get nicer over time. A girl who had tormented me in middle school recently sent an apologetic email, anticipating our reunion. Worst experience: the woman who took out her BlackBerry as soon as I approached her “cool” clique. I laughed it off. Everyone else was friendly and eager to catch up.
I was still the oddball bohemian, but that was okay. I was lucky to have a group of friends who appreciated my differences back in high school. We are still close today. What touched me was how supportive everyone else was about my writing, even though I’m not published yet. People were eager to read my novels and hear about life in Maine. Most were still in NYC or in other big cities, working in business, law, real estate etc. Best gossip: two divorced classmates had hooked up.
Wright Bar in the Guggenheim Museum. Revisiting high school was easier with a drink in hand, and I’m not much of a drinker.
What did I learn? The people who seemed happiest in high school seemed the least satisfied with adulthood. Conformity is only a teen survival skill. Fulfillment comes from searching inside for your own creative spark. A good school, like mine, provides a broad choice of matches.
As for the painful experiences, they make great material. That’s the best thing about being a writer. The main reason I write young adult fiction (as well as adult fiction) is that the teen years made me who I am today. I write the books I would have wanted to read back then. High school has pigeonholes, but birds can fly. My advice to teens: open your wings.