The following post is pretty word-heavy, and pretty photo-heavy with people you won’t care about unless you’re one of them. Feel free to skip ahead to something more fun; I’m mostly writing this one for me.
I, like many many people, had a real rough go of high school. I went to a highly academic and athletic private school for privileged Montrealers, and I was neither academically nor athletically skilled, nor was I particularly privileged. Also, until shortly before I started high school, the school was a boys school, so the male-female balance was roughly 5-1, and many of the boys had been attending since kindergarten and weren’t used to having girls around. It was a last-name, shoulder punching culture, and it was awkward. I was referred to as ‘Schreibs’. I hated this.
I had all the usual teenage dramas… braces, glasses, fuzzy triangle shaped curls I haven’t yet learned to control, terrible terrible acne, and a passion for weird things like swing dancing and Broadway and jazz and old movies and I played flute and participated in the school plays and was not a cool person, I was a nerd without the grades. I rebelled, I pulled away, and generally had a terrible terrible time. I had a few friends, but as time went on, I disconnected from them too, and by the time it was all over, I had been mentally absent for years.
I have a very strong memory of my last day of high school. I walked into the girl’s washroom of the fancy new school building that had gone up across the street while we were in grade 10, and entered a stall in the uniform I’d worn 5 days a week for 5 years: kilt, blazer, dress shirt, tie, sweater vest, knee highs. I switched into my new “civies”… a black fringe festival t-shirt, brightly coloured plaid golf pants, black and white doc marten saddle shoes, and a black bowler hat over my long fading back to brown blue-black braids (by the way, I understand now that I probably looked like a teenage punk/clown). I adjusted my hat in the mirror, nodded solemnly to my reflection, and walked out the door, down the stairs, and up royal avenue, promising never to return.
This past weekend marked my 10 years since I walked the hallowed halls of my particular high school, and not only did I return, but I FLEW back and put my annual much-looked forward to Pop Montreal trip on hold. Was it morbid curiosity? Not really; the culture of reunions has changed greatly due to social networking sites like FaceBook which allows you to “catch up” with old classmates (commonly referred to as creeping). I knew what most everyone was up to… who was married, who worked where, who went to Harvard, who traveled the world, bought their own home, who was a lawyer, a doctor, in the “family business”. Was it to show off? Hardly; while I love the work I do and my life as a whole, it hardly stacks up next to the wunderkinds I went to school with, at least on paper. Besides, being roughly 60 LBS heavier than I was when I graduated, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to throw on a pair of heels and and spend an evening double-cheek kissing a bunch of people I wanted to believe wouldn’t call attention to it, but I had serious doubts. Especially after a facebook incident on the evite wall in the weeks leading up to this that made me cringe. Are you feeling anxious at this description? You probably are getting a sense of the dread I felt going into this.
But I went. Because every sitcom has a reunion episode, and as a fan of bad sitcoms, I wasn’t about to miss my own. I was missing the support of my best friend and closest high school ally, who moved to the other end of the country this year, but I had Kevin, and the option to run away and see a rock show down the street if it all went to hell. But it didn’t! It was so nice! People were gentle and kind and gracious, not focused on themselves and their accomplishments but what everyone else was up to and introductions to significant others and ‘remember the time’ and… it was pretty shocking. We chatted, we drank, we danced. And they were nice to Kevin! I kept replaying moments from high school in my head and wondering if I’d made them up… perhaps it hadn’t been as bad as I’d thought? Likely, it was a little bit of that, and a little bit of people growing up. Either way, I’m so glad I went. Because, even though you can’t change the past, I learned it can be recoloured, softened.
Thank you for such a very lovely experience, class of 2001. You were worth the trip.