Monday, September 8, 2014

20 things I learned at my 20th reunion

DISCLAIMER:  I graduated unbelievably young (Doogie Howser, if you will), so you are right to be terribly shocked that I have been out of high school for 20 years already. There, I've said it. I don't like to throw around the word prodigy, but I guess now the secret is out.

I have to admit, I didn't even really want to go to my 10th reunion. I hadn't accomplished enough. I was still a struggling singer/actor, childless (by choice, but still), was going through a "fat" stage of upwards of 125 pounds - I know, oh the horror! - and I didn't feel I had much in common with anyone from high school any more. From what I hear of 10 year reunions in general, they’re of the “one-upping” genre. Everyone is consumed with making sure they look skinny, beautiful, successful and happy.  I, like most other 20-somethings, bought into that mindset, and I didn't have much to show, so I didn't show. (But then I heard all sorts of fun things about it and wished I had been there to experience it firsthand)
Mark and me being very pretentious indeed.  If this doesn't intimidate you, I don't know what will.
(photo credit Flickr bethelbug1)

This reunion, my 20th, did not feel that way at all. In fact, I didn't even put on my Spanx at all! I know! What was I thinking?! I’m claiming temporary insanity. Some things and people changed a little. Some changed not at all. No one changed a ton. The most interesting thing to me is that people’s personalities were the same. I have changed so much since high school that I expected everyone else to be totally different. But the reality of it is that my personality hasn't changed at all. My priorities, my outlook on life, my maturity (some might argue), all of those things have changed, but what makes me tick has not. I don’t know why I expected others to be any different than how I remember them. The quiet people were still quiet, the kind were still kind, and the loud, obnoxious, self-obsessed ones - oh, just say it - ME - were still the same. Almost everyone had grown up. Almost. Oh, just say it - ME. No one cared to put on airs and parade around and I felt like people were genuinely interested in each other’s lives. I did parade my husband around a little because, well, he’s pretty darn hot. We talked about our families, our hobbies, our memories.
Parading my sexy man around and trying to make people uncomfortable. I think it worked it's working.
(photo credit Flickr bethelbug1)

I did learn a lot while on that hilariously fun 3-day getaway to the sunny state of Florida where I spent many years of my educational years and I would love to share them with you so that you, too, may be enriched. Lucky you. Here are just 20 of the many things I learned at my 20th high school reunion. They are listed in no particular order of importance and not all of these lessons were learned at the reunion activities, but over the course of the weekend. There, now no one can get mad at me.

1.     All reunions should have name tags. For the spouses, of course. Certainly not because I forgot the name of that one guy I don’t remember ever seeing in one of my classes EVER. And we had only just over 50 graduating seniors in our class.

2.     I was reminded of why I liked people with whom I went to school (and they were probably reminded of why they rolled their eyes in my direction so often). I was reminded of why I hung around the ones with whom I was closest friends. I definitely missed some of the people I was hoping to see, but I loved seeing those that were there.

3.     There was an “I Hate Jill Club” during my middle school years, and yes, I was the only Jill in my grade at the time. I’m not sure when exactly it started or ended but this was a real thing! Of course, no one will admit to actually having been a member of this club and I have a pretty good guess as to who started it (not anyone who made it to high school with me), but there was confirmation that it did exist. Now you know why I turned out to be such a grumpy, sad, introspective hermit. I’m hoping to do some more research and get in contact with the former club’s chairperson to see if we can reinstate the club in my Florida hometown and possibly get a chapter going in the Twin Cities. I’m sure I've got some people here that would like to be a part of it.

4.     Fact: There is no poverty north of the Mason Dixon Line. I know! I was shocked, too, and pleasantly surprised when someone made a similar comment that those who live in the North are rich. I’m a little annoyed that we've been wasting millions of dollars on homeless shelters, food shelves, and free and reduced school lunch.

5.     I am an expert at maintaining a smile while cheerfully saying, “Why no, Ms. I-would-drown-in-a-size-2-dress, I am not pregnant and no, those cupcakes are not gluten free.” That “GF” written on the box stands for “good food.” Sorry about that. Hope you don’t get too sick. (yes I do)

6.     I’m never eating again. I knew I should have worn Spanx!

7.     Some people continue to be a wealth of useless information, but they have such an entertaining way of conveying said information that I am compelled to listen and be genuinely interested. It’s weird, really. 

8.     While some of us have meaningless jobs like keeping children alive, others have jobs so important that their mere presence at work will surely singlehandedly prevent a huge disaster that is so wide-spreading that it could make shrimp dinner taste yucky. 

9.     I can make cupcakes in a kitchen that is not my own and they turn out almost the same.

10.    I can survive 3 days without a microwave. But only 3 days and it is very difficult. I hope to never have to accomplish such a feat of raw survival again.

11.    I can smuggle more than 4 oz. of strawberry puree and vanilla paste on an airplane in my carry-on. (but not toothpaste) I guess it’s not really a liquid, but still. Either the rules have changed or TSA is slacking off.

12.    Depending on the thermostat setting, most heated swimming pools in Minnesota are set to between 68 and 72 degrees F. This doesn't really change much throughout the summer unless it’s a really hot summer. Then the only difference is that the heater can be turned off to maintain the same temperature. By contrast, unheated swimming pools in Florida, though I didn't actually look at the thermometer, felt about the same as my baby’s bathwater, which I would estimate to be around 99-101 degrees. Nothing like jumping into a bathtub to cool off from the 104 degree sun. Then again, there’s not much refreshing about jumping into a 68 degree pool to cool off from a 70 degree day. I understand now why our friend and gracious weekend host asked if our pools in the north were heated with ice cubes.

13.   The more butter in your frosting, the faster it will melt in 102 degree weather with 97% humidity.

14.    Speaking of humidity, I’m pretty sure that no one in the state of Florida will ever need a nebulizer.

15.    I learned that, despite my rantings and seasonal depression from last year’s horrid winter, I still want to move further north. Someone actually came right out and called me a wannabe Canadian. Because Minnesota isn't wretchedly cold enough for me. Why stop there, eh? Why not move to Siberia and never see another blade of grass or green deciduous tree for as long as I live? Was this an insult? I can’t decide. It was just weird. I’m pretty sure alcohol was involved.

16.   I learned, or rather confirmed that no matter how much I grow up in mental, emotional or spiritual maturity, I really do still care what people think of me. I don’t so much care what they think “in the moment,” which is probably the root of the problem because I say things without thinking. But after the fact, after I leave the party, I stress about whether I said something stupid, whether people thought I was funny or just obnoxious when they laughed; did I make someone uncomfortable, embarrass them or hurt their feelings? I know I can be a little opinionated, a little dry and a little sarcastic. And by “little,” I mean “lot.” (And in spite of this insecurity, I still am writing this blog post!)

17.    There is sales tax on clothing in Florida. Actually, I did not just learn this. I just wanted to brag about the fact that there is no sales tax on clothes and shoes in Minnesota. It’s lovely. That's probably why we're so rich here.

18.    There is no wrong color to paint your house in Florida. Really. There isn't. Somehow, you can make any color work, and work well. If you painted your suburban house pink with aqua trim up here in MN, you’d better have just donated it to the fire department.

19.    Never judge a book by its high school cover. This wasn't a new lesson either, but a good reminder. We can’t possibly assume we know how someone’s life is going to turn out. Remember those “Most Likely” yearbook quips? Yeah, we didn't have a clue when we voted on those things. The crazy rebel could turn out to be a pastor. The valedictorian could be a musician instead of a chemical engineer, the girl who set out to be a doctor could be baking cakes and making concrete counter tops. One of our classmates who, I admit, was never voted most likely to succeed, is actually living in a van down by the river. (And by van, I mean company sales van he uses to drive around his 10 state sales territory, and by river I mean lake home)

20.    Even Floridians are conscious of alligators in the lakes...even the "alligator free" lakes.  I lived there for 8 years of my life and never really gave them a thought. No, they're not as vicious as crocodiles, but they aren't docile little puppy dogs either. (They = alligators not Floridians)

So there it is: proof that no matter when you finished high school, you can still learn from it.  I learned so much and thanks to my continuing education, you, my few but faithful readers may also glean from my wisdom.  You’re welcome.

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