I’ve dropped off the planet as far as writing goes, and miss it. I also have a tendency to drop projects, or forget about projects when something new comes up (or a kid is born) and leave things unfinished. So in my ever-evolving effort up the path of self-improvement here’s my attempt at killing two birds with one stone and finishing off old writing projects. I present to you one of many unfinished drafts that never got posted:
Last Saturday night I called Stacy from the parking lot. For the first time in years I was completely nervous. I don’t get nervous often, but this was my first 20 year high school reunion.
We moved from San Diego to the suburbs of Seattle in February of 1995, during the middle of my freshmen year of high school. I went from a low-income school where I was one of a few white kids in my grade, to a school of upper-middle class white kids. My youth group in SD was thriving, and was led by a dynamic mentor. Our church home in Seattle was a new plant, with just a few other teens, and a handful of volunteers. San Diego was sunny, Seattle was rainy. And I had just started to learn how to surf. The transition was tough. I struggled with fitting in. I struggled with making friends. I struggled with grades. I struggled with my self esteem. And I struggled with wether or not I was going to make it out of high school alive.
Things changed after a couple of years. I stopped trying to impress the wrong people, I got in with a great group of friends, dived headfirst into punk and ska music, even managed to ask out a couple of girls. But when I graduated, I decided that I would never live in Seattle again. I came home for a couple of summers, and to take care of my dad for a short time, but did my best to keep Seattle in my rearview mirror. The stories of hurt trumped everything else, and I categorically decided those were difficult years.
Over the past twenty years a lot has changed. One of the benefits of time is the perspective it brings. During my time in high school I blamed a lot of other people for the struggles I experienced. I blamed everyone else. As that blame shifted to others, mean words, accusations, and plenty of slanderous talk accompanied my memories of my time in Seattle. Over the course of time I have taken more responsibility for the actions of my past. I’ve come to realize that so my difficult time in Seattle was self imposed.
So when the time came for our 20 year reunion, I knew that I wanted to go. Not necessarily to reminisce, but to apologize to these people that I had blamed for my poor attitude for so long. It was a difficult decision, and I had every reason not to go (including the 2nd birthday of my son). But the Lord kept tugging at my heart. I was hoping that there would be a sense of peace from letting go of entrenched feelings, so that was my prayer. The Lord answered my prayers and then some.
I can honestly say my High School reunion was one of the best nights of my life.
Before I even walked in the door I ran into a friend I had forgotten about, who said they were glad to see me. We talked about their high school ska band (viva Los Guapos!) and walked on in. The whole night was one moment after another of seeing forgotten faces, friends from another lifetime, and people that I never thought I’d talk to again.
Conversation flowed, and it didn’t take long for me to get every comfortable sharing about my journey as a youth minister. That was another part of the story that had me worried. I didn’t exactly live out my faith back in the day, so I wasn’t sure how that info would be received. Everyone had great responses to that, and I felt like it opened more doors than it closed.
The whole night was a blur of bouncing from one person to the next, sharing the excitement of catching up. We shared stories, talked about our lives, our families, our shared memories, all of the things that you’d hope for at a reunion. The amount of joy in the room climbed steadily through the night, as nervousness turned into joy. Looking around the room I could tell that others were feeling the same way.
The only thing that did not go well was my plan to apologize to everyone. As I shared stories, friend after friend cut me off before I could to the part where I felt that I had wronged them. They shared stores of their own struggles and insecurities, mishaps, and difficult times. I realized early into the night that the need to apologize wasn’t there like I had anticipated. Instead, I found myself thanking people for their friendships and talking about how much i had respected and admired them back in the day. Story after story came up, and friend after friend came by and then it hit me…
Maybe high school wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.
As the night went on things only got better. Everyone was so busy chatting we pretty much all forgot to eat. A couple of old friends got the party going out on the dance floor. Goofy group photos were taken at booth. And I ended up talking to three of my biggest crushes at the same time for solid half hour (high school dj would never have seen that happening). I even ended up talking with one of the guys who bullied the most back in the day.
By the time the event was done, most of us were realizing that we were too busy having fun to take any personal photos, so props to the few that made everyone tae a group pic. It took a while to say good bye to everyone, and i found myself chatting up a few of the folks I hadn’t really sought out before. Even those conversations went well. I’ll call it the benefit of time, maturity, and the desire to be a better person, and thank God for all of the above.
I got back to my car, and just sat there and smiled for a while and thanked God for a great evening. It felt like twenty years of weighted been lifted off of my shoulders. To say that I am relieved is an understatement, I am filled with joy at the way the night turned out.
A few months have passed and the overall excitement of the night has dispelled into a great memory to replace whatever bad ones I had back in the day. I’m still grateful to God for that night, and the perspective that it continues to bring. The truth is, I did struggle in high school, but I also had some great friends and built some great memories. I’m grateful for both, because that combination of triumph and failure during the formative years helped create so much of what I am proud of today.
Pointillism is artwork created by layering thousands of tiny dots into an image. If you look at a piece of pointillism art up close, you see nothing but the dots, but as you step back and expand your focus you start to see the image become clearer.
One of the big things I walked away from my reunion with was an appreciation for not getting caught up in the moment, especially the tough ones. The ability to step back and recognize that each moment is part of a much larger picture is a great comfort. It calls me to ponder how God sees us in our daily struggles, unable to see past the dot of the moment to take in how it plays into a beautiful work of art. Thank God that we have the blessing of time to give us a gimplse of that perspective.
And cheers to the Eastlake High School Class of 98. Go Wolves!