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Monday, September 8, 2008

30 years After High School

This past week-end I attended my 30 year high school reunion. I hadn't been to a high school reunion since my 10 year so it had been 20 years since I had seen any of these people. I have not kept in touch with anyone from high school so it was with a mixture of excitement, curiosity and nerves that I put on my black dress and walked into the Hilton Hotel for this gathering.
It ended up being a great experience that left an array of impressions in my mind!
First, I have to admit, California is a different place. The invitation said that the dress was cocktail in nature. Most of the women wore black, knee length dresses, but some were in slacks, one even in jeans. The men on the other hand, were dressed in "California Smart Casual", meaning, no ties. The Tommy Bahama type of shirt (fancy Hawaiian shirt) ruled among men's attire and it was interesting to note how few were dressed up. You would not have seen this type of gear at a Swedish gathering, where every man would have been in a black suit, white shirt, understated tie! It was refreshing and interesting to see this southern California twist on our gathering.
The women surprised me. Many had big hair and loads of make-up. The cosmetic surgery industry is alive and well in southern California! I was surrounded by a sea of glamour pusses and it was clear to me that I no longer belonged in the OC. (Orange county). Of course, many folks were much more down to earth but generally speaking, it was a bit of a spectacle.
Most surprising and outrageous to me was how drunk people got! I'm thinking, OK, we're almost 50. We're at a public gathering with people we haven't been with for many years. Do you really want to leave a drunken impression with them? Very strange. I'm all for having a drink with good friends, but getting blasted in behavior altering ways just lacks appeal. The bar was happy. The drinks were fortune, right up there with Swedish prices.
People have made lots of money in sales, technology and real estate. I was surprised how uncreative the professional scale was. Many were in still living in the general Orange County area and some have kids going to our former schools. Having left Orange County right after high school and rarely living there again, it was interesting to see how entrenched people are in that scene. Quite a few have found their way to the north west, Washington and Oregon, but clearly, I was the one who had ventured farthest from the nest!
I did win the award for having come the farthest for the reunion. No surprise there, but I did win one other award that was very fun. I was voted the person who had physically changed the least since high school! AWESOME! I'll take that any day! There were several others who also looked exactly the same and then many more who looked entirely different. The men who are balding is the biggest difference! Not too many were overweight, again, a reflection of the lifestyle and culture of southern Cal. (and perhaps a tummy tuck along the way!)
I would say about 50% of the people I was hoping to see were there. I was genuinely happy to see many from our cheer squad (I was school mascot our senior year!) and a group of boys from the posse I ran with were there as well. Not many girls from that same posse were there and that was a bit of a disappointment. The conversations were lively and fun. Some people have done really well and have enjoyed life and are still enjoying it very much. Others have had some pretty rough years with divorce, business failures, and health concerns. What I love about getting together at this stage of life is that you can be generous with one another. We've lived long enough to know that life isn't all that simple, being popular isn't the most central value, it's fun to see what even the most random stranger from high school is up to. People were interested in our life as pastors in Sweden. Most thought my living in Europe was a "very cool thing" and it was fun to gush about my lovely husband (who chose to eat pizza at home) and realize all over again that I do love my life, I do love where I've landed and I am indeed a very blessed person.
I am happy I went. I may not see many of these folks ever again, but at least now I know what a few close friends from high school are up to and it feels good to re-connect to that part of my life again.