This I Believe

Charles - Indianapolis, Indiana
Entered on June 3, 2007

This summer I will finally honor a vow I made in 1995 during my sophomore year in high school: I will skip my 10-year class reunion.

I believe that many Americans have troubled high school experiences. For me, high school was a time of arrested social development and dreams deferred. To begin with, lettering in band and Latin did not produce party-invitations or dating requests, much to my surprise. Instead, this unique combination of extracurricular activities resulted in countless Friday nights spent at home (save for a single, raucous Latin Club Halloween party my freshman year).

In high school, I was the proverbial Mr. Cellophane: look right through me, walk right by me, never even know I’m there. When the lunch bell sounded and all other students filed into the cafeteria, I quietly stole away to the band hall and found a quiet practice room. Kept company by a piano, marching band uniforms, and an Anne Rice novel, I ate my lunch. No one ever noticed.

I graduated high school in 1997, and in hindsight, the world was nearly idyllic in comparison to today. School shootings were an unthinkable phenomena, 9/11 was a date like any other…unremarkable, and the Iraq War had been won successfully nearly six years prior. In a time that historians termed Pax Americana, my life was in its greatest turmoil.

The American high school experience is so much more than prom and Friday Night Lights. It is tragic, therefore, that so many of us repress our true selves during those years due to peer cruelty and the adolescent dictum of conformity. To wit, my eagerness to graduate from high school was outweighed only by my commitment to boycott all future class reunions.

If it is to be believed that our high school selves are early reflections of our adult selves, then the world teems with vindictive former jocks and two-faced cheerleaders turned vindictive corporate lawyers and money-grubbing MBAs. While this is most certainly true to an extent, I cannot accept this to be universal truth. Ultimately, even these high school archetypes must accept that college is the true equal-opportunity life period and that looks will only advance one’s career so far. Beyond that, life is the same competitive game for all—occasionally zero sum, but always enjoyable at day’s end.

I believe that I will not be defined by the social restrictions that comprised high school. My success and happiness in life will never again be dependent upon the approval of peers. And yet I also believe that high school should be a richly memorable experience for everyone. For me, however, it was not. For this reason, I am saying now what should have been common knowledge years ago for thousands of people like me: there is no shame in skipping your high school reunion. For those who wish to attend their reunions, I offer my blessing. For the rest of us, however, may we never forget those four years of awkwardness in which Anne Rice novels, marching band, and Latin Club Halloween parties dominated our lives.