My old high school pal Bill requested a post about high school. I've dilly dallied because I'm not sure what to say about high school. It's funny. I think as adults we use "high school" as code for what we think is a universal shared experience -- pettiness, drama, insecurity, strict yet whimsical social rules about how to act and be. I hear and even say "what are we, in high school?" or "this is like high school," as though high school was a particular thing and everyone knows what that means. But when I think about my actual high school memories, it wasn't so bad. There wasn't so much drama and rebellion, teen angst and social stricture and wobbly sexual experimentation. Or, I guess there was plenty of that, but there was plenty of other stuff, too -- significant, interesting, authentic friendships. Space to be myself. Good people, doing a variety of different kinds of things, and the chance to get to know them. Learning, both academic and social. I guess that my kneejerk response is to roll my eyes and say, "I hated high school, just like everybody else." But I didn't really hate it.
Take Bill, for example. We were in a lot of the same classes. Junior year I remember sitting behind him and pestering him in Ms. Keyes' English class. But we didn't run in the same circles, exactly. And yet, he and I and Sara S., who began wearing her skirts short and her hair big and getting tattoos near the later years of high school, used to go out to breakfast every month or two. I would usually initiate it they'd complain and grin and we'd all get up too early and someone would drive us all to the Miss Portland Diner or the Brea-Lu cafe. Stunned by the early morning hours, and because we'd known one another for years, we were honest and friendly, even though we didn't often do things together outside of school.
I live in my hometown, not so terribly far from my high school, so I haven't really left high school behind. People who remember my past, who shared it with me, are all around. Charlene, who was way prettier and cooler than me in high school, but with whom I attended a slumber party in middle school and listened to Def Leppard and painted toenails and talked about boys, lives two houses away from me now. Jen M. is also a neighbor, although I haven't visited her yet. Rob A. is now a lawyer, and his wedding is one of the five I've got this summer. Dave N. is a musician and a baker, skinny and freckled and gangly and funny as ever. I just saw Drew over the weekend, taking a break from his investment banker life in NYC. I was driving yesterday thinking for some reason about whether another one of the couples I've set up will get married, so I can bring my tally up to three and have an automatic ticket into heaven. The two marriages of couples I introduced are both women who I went to high school with (Autumn and Amy), marrying men I knew from other circles. I think Gwen will be the next one, but don't want to jinx anything. I hear from Derek from time to time, although he's busy with his three kids. Liz T, who was a class behind us, and Valerie, who was two years back, are in my wide orbit of friends, and I'd like to pull them in tighter. Nate S. is back in town after a few years in California, and bought a house over near where Jon W. used to live. I need to give him a call.... I used to see Phil around a lot -- he was working for a beer distributor, and sometimes was tending bar -- but haven't lately. Mallory is a seventh grade teacher and still tends bar some of the time, as does Steve M. I've heard from several people from my high school now in law school, who somehow happened upon the blog: Miriam J. and Justin, and Rick R. who was a freshman when we were seniors. Just this weekend I ran into Andy G, visiting from NYC, whose writing career I'd been following through articles like this one. Angus is running the elevator company, and he's married to Darcie, with kids and goats and chickens and everything. Allison C., who was a senior when we were freshmen, turned up living next door to me when I lived in the middle of nowhere, and now is back in Portland, about to have a baby. I see Stacy M. walking around from time to time. We like the same things, and go to the same art shows and concerts, but somehow she started hating me in high school and doesn't seem to have stopped. She's one of my big regrets from high school: I wish I could have salvaged that friendship, because she's smart and supercool, but when I see her around town my friendliness goes unreciprocated. When I heard that she'd published a book six years ago I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach -- where's my book? Mercedes and I periodically reconnect and drift apart; usually I'm guilty, as I am now, for letting things slide. She's a master gardener, designing people's gardens, and getting an MBA. Six years ago I ran into Christian in Boston. He's cute, and knows a lot about food, and he taught me how to eat edamame. I used to hear about Anneke from her dad, who sails, but haven't lately. She's a superstar, as you'd expect. I think she was writing for the Economist last I heard, but she might have given that up to become a teacher or something. Was in touch with Heather G. for a little while, and Kelly R-B, but that didn't last. Alex H. and I also reconnected for a little while, and that was fantastic. But these things drift and return. Right now they've drifted. John W's older brother married someone I know from sailing and so I hear reports about that family.
A few years ago I connected with some teachers. Mrs. W. came to a couple of my parties -- she's terrific, coping with Parkinson's disease with energy and optimism. Ms. Keyes and I had coffee and she talked about her love life, which felt like such a strange confirmation of my adulthood. Mr. Wheeler has stopped teaching to sail full time, which seems like a great idea. I'd like to know what's become of Mr. Tucker, who convinced me to register as a Republican when I turned 18.
I guess I'm okay with high school, and I'm okay with my past. That's the only way it would be possible to live around here, I think. Our school had a lot of interesting people in it. It was a suburban public school -- hardly diverse, but with kids from a mix of backgrounds and families and aspirations. There were some things hard about high school but I always felt pretty socially mobile, like I could make friends and hang out with just about anyone. That's not to say I didn't also feel lonely and isolated, because I did. I was confused by the rift in my group of friends sophomore year. I felt behind and wanted a boyfriend, and was terribly relieved when I finally had my first kiss sophomore year. I got way too drunk at the junior prom that year and made an ass of myself on the island. I always had trouble making the transition back to school after a summer spent sailing. I had dozens of unrequited crushes. My best friend moved to Bangladesh our senior year. There was plenty of drama. But it still was generally a safe and happy experience. I'm glad I don't have to do it again, but I'm not bitter or resentful or crowded with regrets about the way it happened. I have more regrets about college.