I went to two different high schools, so I get to celebrate two 25 year reunions this summer. I went to the first, last night.
29 years ago, in 1985, I started high school at Ursuline Academy. It was the 4th school I’d attended since arriving in Texas in 1981. I distinctly remember being dropped off before the front doors were open, and sitting down on the front steps feeling nervous, afraid, and a little ugly with my boy-short hair, braces, and tea-length uniform skirt. Okay, I felt a lot ugly.
To my great relief, another Freshman arrived just after me. She also had boy short hair and a way-too-long skirt. We bonded over being a) Not Catholic, Going to Catholic School, b) having short hair, c) being dropped off so early, d) not knowing anyone else starting that year, and e) being terrified. Alas, our last names and class schedules separated us almost immediately, and I only saw my friend now and then at lunch.
Not gonna lie: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
When I was talking to my former classmates last night, that was the grand consensus. We were nervous. We felt awkward. We wanted to be liked, but weren’t sure how to go about it. Some of us asserted ourselves, some of us subverted ourselves, some of us were aggressive, some of us were invisible, nearly all of us were sure we were doing it wrong. I was sure I was doing it wrong. I still feel the need to apologize to everyone who knew me between the ages of 15 and 23. If you knew me in between those ages, I am so sorry! Ha!
I did not graduate from Ursuline, so I missed out on the big, floppy hats that go along with their all-white ceremony. Instead, I graduated in Gopher Blue.
By the time I graduated, I’d had my braces off for nearly 6 months (5 more days to make my braces off anniversary of January 9, 1989,) grown out my hair, and had a little more control over my hemlines. I was still nervous, awkward, and never really felt entirely comfortable in my skin. That wouldn’t happen for another 10 years. I’ll let you know when I get past feeling nervous and awkward in large groups.
It’s been 25 years since I walked across the stage to collect my diploma. My strongest memory from the night is of watching a swarm of gnats fly around the head of the girl sitting in front of me. They were running circles on her hat, and zooming in and out of the massive mane of 80s perm she wore. I remember sweating. I remember wishing people would stop talking and just let us be finished with things. I remember relief and regret in equal amount.
I swore when I walked out of that Gopher Bowl, I would never look back.
Five years ago, I went to my 20th reunion and reconnected with some of the people I’d known since 7th grade, and some I’d only met at the end of my high school career. I found out we’d all grown up. I found out we were all pretty decent people. I made new friends out of old ones. It worked out pretty well for me.