December 1, 2023

But you can go to high school again.

At any moment, and with the slightest provocation, you can live in that high school psyche again. You can fill up to overflowing with uncertainty. You can get your feelings hurt easily. You can have a panic attack over what it meant that a person you thought was a friend did not speak to you or even seem to notice you in a public place. You can become that feeling again that who you really are doesn’t fit inside the life you were given. You can become that feeling again that you don’t know who you are.

You can believe any wrong turn might ruin your life. You can obsess over the eternal question of whether the right or wrong people like you. You can become convinced that every piece of praise is false praise, that every glib platitude is an act of treachery.

You can exist as angst. You can paint the town with doldrums. You can do it with enthusiasm, with a kind of abandon that says you don’t care, that you aren’t after all a cauldron of insecurity inside.

Like everyone else.

Because, of course, if you are in high school again you don’t know that no one is certain, that everyone experiences self doubt, that high school is tough even for people who seem to maneuver it well.

You believe you are a pretender, but other people are real. You don’t know what it means when they make you memorize “All the world’s a stage.” You have some idea, but you don’t really know it in a way that can be processed mentally or emotionally in your moments of experiencing life as high school.

You are ruled by fear. Of rejection. Of failure. Of the expectations of others. Of being different. Of becoming just like everyone else. Of being boring. Of being bored. Of going too far. Of life as ruled by others. Of life as independent of others.

You are ruled by hormones.

You are ruled by longing of one sort or another.

You are ruled by hurt and anger and love and hope and everything good and bad all tangled up in such a way that if these various pieces of you were a puzzle, an army of high school valedictorians could not sort them out into sensible patterns.

And that’s okay because in this way you are just like everyone else.

This is what I tell myself anyway in order to believe I didn’t come across as a total dork at my own 25th high school reunion. It’s a good story, and I’m sticking to it.

As for all of you, Class of 1985, I thought you had grown up into interesting and remarkable people. I wished I had a chance to know you better as grown ups.

I wondered what an HBO special on our class would look like. I didn’t think it would be boring.

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