This weekend I went to my high school reunion. The night before I looked at the old yearbook ("Reflections") and felt an unexpected rush of feeling -- not quite emotion, really, but a vivid recollection of how it felt to be 18 and going to school with all these people. Looking at their photos reminded me of who I liked, what I thought about, how I tried to fit in to the larger puzzle. I was reminded that there are parts of myself -- significant parts -- that really haven't changed at all in the intervening years. Heading into the reunion I was very nervous, even though I knew I wanted to see a lot of people and was excited to share my life with them, the way it is now.
One problem with the actual event is that when I got there, I ended up drinking copious amounts of vodka. This had consequences. Afterwards, as the night wound down and I sat in the front seat of my mom's car, slumped down and watching the rain hit the windshield as L drove us back home, I was feeling vaguely sad about it all. I had had too much to drink, wasting the chance to see people I had missed and at one time loved. I didn't know why I had talked to some people but not others. I lamented that it would be another five years until there was another chance to do it right.
The next day, as an unhappily sober person sitting on a bus to New York, I still felt melancholy. My melancholy stemmed more from the ineffable progress of time, the sadness of stale relationships, and the shock of dealing with the consequences of choices you didn't realize you were making -- the drunkenness was a piece of it, but not the whole thing. Part of it was knowing that there are good people in your life, people you want to be friends with, or maybe were at one point, but now, for whatever reason, that's just not the way it is. You can't be close to everyone you want to be close with, and sometimes that's the result of choices you made, and sometimes it's the result of other circumstances, or the result of choices you made passively, by not choosing anything at all. Not mistakes we knew we were making, but decisions we didn't know we had made. It got under my skin.
The good news, though, after the alcohol and melancholy had dissolved, was that there is another chance every five years to see these people and give them another evening. On that night, we probably won't remember or talk about this reunion, just like how nobody really talked a lot about our actual four years in high school. Looking at the yearbook may have been a mistake -- I should have gone in blind, just seeing everybody as they are now without one foot stuck in the past, thinking about how we were then, and how we could have been, before all this time passed us by.
Of course, at the actual event, I wasn't glowering in the corner, nursing my gimlet and thinking about the march of time; I was laughing really hard, and dancing, and saying hi to people and telling them they looked good, even if they didn't. I was drunker than I meant to be, yes, but I was there in the room, and I'm glad about that.
And every reunion is another chance. I may have to wait five more years for a shot at redemption, but redemption awaits.