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Reflections on my 20 Year High School Reunion

Despite having to leave the reunion early, I had a great time. It was fascinating to see how people had aged (or not) and changed (or not).

1) Reunion participants view their adolescence in favorable terms: This is not the same thing as saying reunion participants had a positive experience in high school. That seems obvious. But my high school days were a mixed bag. The highs were really high and lows were really low. There are so many moments I remember like yesterday and it's amazing how sharp and vivid the images are. I remember a couple highlights involving car accidents and water polo:

I pulled into the parking lot in my Volvo station wagon for 6 AM practice and proceed to sideswipe Jeremy Vander Kam's pick-up (it was parked - yeah Asian drivers!). He was asleep inside but that woke him up. The next day he asked me to pay $20 to fix the dent in his truck and it was the best hush-hush money I've ever spent.

Coming back from De Anza College after practice, Kian Azimian wasn't watching in front of him while trying to move into the carpool lane and I watched in slow motion from the passenger seat as his van slammed into the car in front of us. I will forever remember turning around and seeing the pained expressions on J.T. Gilkeson and my brother's faces as they clutched their bellies due of the constriction of the old school lap-only seat belts. J.T. and I talked about this on Saturday and had a good laugh.

There's something about high school and adolescence where seemingly insignificant events and situations become etched in your brain forever. It's impossible to get rid of the images. And at a reunion, you will spend at least some amount of time reliving those memories. And reunion participants have chosen to retain enough good memories to outweigh the bad ones (or at least reframe the bad ones into something good).

2) Facebook hasn't killed reunions . . . yet: Some friends I tried to get to attend the reunion weren't interested. They told me that they already keep in touch with everyone they're interested in through Facebook. I get it and it's true. You can find out all the relevant details about someone - marital status, occupation, weight gain/loss, children, etc. - through Facebook but there's something very unique about an in-person encounter. There's also a social dynamic when a group of people comes together that you cannot recreate any other way than face to face. It's a chemistry that brings out dormant aspects of your personality that would not have been revealed in any other way. It's like you travel back in time and it's amazing.

3) People change: Intellectually I knew going into this thing that all the people who had been mean or ignored me or been in a different social group would, 20 years later, most likely be gracious and warm towards me (or at least feign interest). And it was true. I talked to a couple people that I never remember having a conversation with in high school. It was good. It's neat how people do indeed mature nicely.

4) People don't change: I was on the fence about going to the reunion. Old insecurities linger. I wasn't in the popular crowd. I'm not successful by any conventional terms. I barely travel. My life is not that exciting. But in the end, I said screw it. I'm curious enough about what people are doing 20 years later. And I think I've matured a little bit.

Not so.

In one conversation, a woman mentioned a vice she had back in high school.  Every couple minutes I would jokingly remind her of her past indiscretion and finally she said "Wow, Freddie, you're still a jerk". Yes, people don't change. Now I need to go find a parked car to run into.


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