This summer marked my 20th high school reunion. I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around it. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I know I’m supposed to have a plan, to have that all figured out by now. But I don’t. In the immortal words of Phoebe Buffay from Friends, “I don’t even have a pla.”
Due to the vigilant efforts of my former classmates, there was a reunion held in our high school town a few weeks ago. I was away at the time and couldn’t attend, but thought I would share my jumble of thoughts and movie-related connections about the big event here.
It seems surreal that it’s been twenty years since that memorable day in June of 1992 when we marched, all fresh-faced and wide-eyed, between rows of plastic chairs on the gym floor towards our future. We were the graduating class of 1992 – all 262 of us – united in our triumph, anticipation and pride as the mighty Panther loomed over us [to “Friday Night Lights” fans, eat your hearts out – we were the Panthers first!] 65% of us were headed for post-secondary greatness at universities, colleges, and vocational schools, the highest percentage of students in a single graduating class to achieve that feat in our school’s history at that point in time. In our three years we contributed to a highly celebrated musical, provincial championship athletic teams, and internationally acclaimed Model United Nations Conferences. There were scholarships and awards, speeches and presentations, accolades and distinctions. We put condoms in the washrooms (for those not from Nova Scotia, this was a big deal in a fairly rural community in 1992)! Was there anything we couldn’t do?
We were lucky – our high school gave us so many opportunities to explore who we were. From tinkering with souped-up Corvettes in the parking lot to running the student body, there were a million things to do at Park View – whether you did them or not was entirely up to you. And love it or hate it, Park View painted our collective perspective with fire engine orange and excrement brown.
Unfortunately, I think there’s a trend in our culture where we tend to focus more on accomplishments rather than our interests, experiences, and funny little quirks – you know, the stuff that makes us who we are. Instead of the high school cliques of Jocks, Brains, Criminals, Princesses, and Kooks ala “The Breakfast Club”, we now inadvertently belong to the “married with children” club or the “successful entrepreneur” club (I would belong to the “slightly adrift and uncertain” club). Unless movies have lied to me (“the horror…”), I get the impression reunions seem to focus primarily on establishing where everyone stands in terms of the Big Three: marriage, kids, career. We should have at least one of those by now, right?
But I don’t think our alma mater spit out a bunch of androids that long hot evening in June. High school, such as it was, helped mould us as individuals. Individuals who were only just beginning to realize who we were and what our place in the world might be. So here’s a radical idea for how to approach a reunion. When coming together after so much time, distance, and life experience, and after asking what someone does for a living or how many children they have, maybe invite them to discuss recent travels, or good books they’ve read lately, or their volunteer work or how they like their eggs. I’m a scrambled girl myself, in case you were wondering.
To close, here’s some notable wisdom from a wide range of high school reunion flicks:
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
Best friends Romy and Michele are so desperate to impress the cool kids from high school at their 10-year reunion that they concoct the wild success story that they invented Post-its. Take-away message: don’t worry about impressing people – it turns out everyone’s screwed-up.
Grosse Pointe Blank
In the midst of an existential crisis, hitman Martin Blank (Cusack) takes a job in his home town during the weekend of his 10-year reunion providing a chance to both reconcile with the one who got away (Driver) and end his killing ways. Take-away message: you can go home again – just make sure you’re armed.
Peggy Sue Got Married
Restless wife and mother Peggy Sue becomes 18 again after fainting at her 25th high school reunion and gets to explore the age-old adage: “If I knew then what I know now…” Take away message: we’re just as clueless the second time around.
Uncertain about the direction his life has taken, Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) returns home for his reunion and connects with his high school buddies who still live in the small town where they all grew up. Take away message: wishing for what was will never help you appreciate what is.
Virgins no more, the boys meet up again to catch up after over a decade apart and try to recapture some of what they’ve lost – awkwardness and sexual misadventures ensue. Take away message: some things never change.