I sent in my $60 high school reunion registration fee and in 23 days will show up with multiple scores to settle.
I’ve for 30 years bore a grudge against the people who were once my very best friends, the ones who taught me all I know about laughter and friendship.
Today I resent them.
I’m the guy who never changed.
It’s scribbled in there all over my 1981 Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) High School yearbook: “Don’t ever change!”
Well, by God, I didn’t. And it’s been my ruin.
The high school reunion is a pivotal take-stock milestone. We look at our hairlines, our wrinkles, our midriffs and we time travel back to when we were all trim, beautiful and bubbling with enthusiasm about our rosy futures.
And, inevitably, we look at who we were and what we’ve become.
Today some of us are respected bankers, prestigious attorneys and celebrated educators.
People will embarrass these accomplished classmates by saying, “Tom! I remember you with that bowl haircut and those dorky glasses. And now look at you! Handsome in a tailored suit. I can hardly believe you’re the same guy who spent his whole junior year with his finger jammed up his nose!”
Tom will show he’s matured in other ways too by refraining from punching the uncouth lout in the kisser like he’ll surely deserve.
I confess I’m feeling a little anxious about attending. Not because I’ve become some sort of disgrace or have let myself really go to hell. No, my anxieties are symptomatic of my whole affliction.
I still get nervous around grown-ups.
I’ll hear some of them expertly conversing about the global economic upheavals, about college endowments and ground-breaking pharmaceuticals they’re helping to market.
Overhearing any of these cerebral discussions will be to drive me to the distant wall (the one nearest the bar).
Just like high school, I’ll be the guy in the back of the class giggling at all the fart jokes.
Is that anyway to go through life?
It began to dawn on me that I’ve never changed when a good friend’s mother told me her son had told her I’d never changed.
And I haven’t.
In many ways, my job description is exactly the same as it was when I was a paperboy and was paid to deliver stories.
The real shame is my income is roughly equivalent to what it was when I was a paperboy, too.
Informing people what I do for a living is always tricky for me. It often changes from week to week.
Some weeks I’m a bona fide author. That’s when I’m pitching book proposals and having discussions with editors and agents about the viability of my latest pipe dream.
Next week I’ll be a magazine writer again. I’ll be interviewing Arnold Palmer for about the 50th time. That tends to impress so I may go with that. Being quasi buddy-buddy with AP is one of the coolest things that’s happened to me since graduation.
Travel writer works, too. I’m doing two or three travel stories a week for msnbc.com and that sounds like a real job, even when most of the stories can be done by phone.
I hope to God I don’t blurt out “Blog!” when someone asks me what I do. I probably feel more like a professional blogger than anything else these days but everyone knows blogging doesn’t pay squat so they’ll burst out laughing and continue to laugh until they decide it’s time to give me a wedgie.
And, boy, will that take me back.
So how’ve I changed since high school? I weigh about 30 pounds more than I used to, am more hairy in some places and less hairy in others, and I don’t need to ask anyone if I can have the car on Friday night.
And I drink on school nights without having to produce a fake ID.
I never changed. I remember being very happy in high school so it seemed like good advice.
In so many ways I guess I’m still a pretty happy little kid. And there’s a lot to be said for going through life happy as a high schooler.
If your old classmates were signing your year book today, would they urge you to remain the same or would they write, “Change! Now! Please!”
If it's the latter, come see me.
We should talk.