Note: In honor of Spirit Day, an anti-bullying campaign in support of LGBT youth, I dug out this piece that I scribbled back in 2009. The editor in me really wanted to clean this story up, as I usually do when I re-post something dusty, but in the end I decided to leave intact my thoughts from 6 years ago about a time 25 years before that…
Okay, taking a bit of a break from my normal routine of making fun of myself and my life circumstances, wherein we all have a good laugh and them move on. Just read a multi-post discussion on Facebook concerning whether or not to attend one’s approaching high-school reunion (whatever year-increment it may be).
First, let me say that I have never attended any of my reunions. Initially, I had no desire to go back. I could not WAIT to get out of that place, what I considered a hell-on-earth situation. I actually don’t have my high school diploma, because you had to go back to the high school after the graduation ceremony and show your cap in order to get the diploma. No interest in doing that. I don’t have my senior yearbook, even though I was on the yearbook staff, because you had to go back after graduation to get it. I ran like my butt was on fire and never looked back.
I graduated in 1983, so it’s been a while. Over the years, I did eventually contemplate going to a reunion. Just to see. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as my memories made me think. Then I would surreptitiously troll the websites where people were planning the reunions, and I was always marked as “unable to locate, can’t find him”. Hello? I’ve never had an unpublished number, my last name is pretty rare, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to track me down. Apparently, nobody wanted to try real hard to find me.
So I would go back to my dark place. The pain of the high school years would come bubbling up, and I would avoid the reunions.
See, I was this odd dichotomy in high school. President of my Junior Class. Student Council president my senior year. Hey, sounds good, right? People must like me. Yay. But I was also gay. A horrible secret that had to be hidden away in the early 80’s, and really, for years after that. And I guess I didn’t really hide it that well, because some people knew, or suspected, or were just hateful.
Picture this, especially those of you who were there in those days at Broken Arrow Senior High at the old campus. The main hallway that ran east/west, with what seemed like hundreds of classrooms. I hated that hall. Because there were so many times when I would be walking down that hall, just trying to get to my next class, when somebody would spit on me and call me a faggot. It became a daily challenge. Would I get to class without having to wipe spit off my face?
Shocking, right? Should be. But it wasn’t shocking in that time and place, it was perfectly acceptable, and there was no one to protect you. Wait, let me qualify that. There were a few friends who knew, and supported me, who did what they could out of love. That was my spark, that’s what got me through. But I still don’t want that damn diploma. I didn’t graduate, I simply managed to survive. I don’t need a piece of paper for that.
Flash forward 25 or so years, and now we have Facebook. It’s a fascinating thing. Thrills me to see former classmates posting about acceptance and love for their gay friends, it seriously does. And then I accept a friend invite to find that someone I remembered as being progressive is now a member of some “God hates fags” group. What is wrong here? What fundamental thing do I not understand?
Then I have to remember. It’s not about me. It’s not about what I personally hope or wish for. Every human being has their own free will. That’s the “human” part. Set aside those wants, or hopes, or wishes. Free will, to each his own. End sentence, next paragraph.
This is the test, to live with that.
Let me rephrase, the test is to make the BEST of that.
So, to bring it back around, do you go to your high school reunion when you have baggage?
Depends on the baggage. How much do you have? If you’ve got enough that you have to check some of it in and pay the service fees every time you travel, you’ve got too much. Get rid of it, learn to fly with just a carry-on. I believe I discarded my first piece of luggage somewhere outside the Broken Arrow city limits. There should be a diploma and a yearbook inside. And maybe a skinny tie or two.
Sometimes you have to get far away from something before you can actually see it for what it was. And what it wasn’t. And then you can slowly go back, if you choose. But now the choices and decisions are your own. You pick your classes. More importantly, you pick your teachers. It’s an open campus, you have your own car, there aren’t any bells ringing, and lunch lasts as long as you let it…
Welcome to the You-niversity. Would you like some coffee with that?
(Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 06/02/09. Not updated, no extra flair.)
(Note: The suitcase image is the work of Israeli artist Yuval Yairi, with more info here.)