Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The High School Reunion (1 of 3)

I had the best opportunity to revisit my K-12 years after my 20th High School Reunion.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to present this experience, and I decided to break it down into three parts: reunions in general, my retrospective from my reunion and My ADHD Story Part 2, and a message to my classmates from Haddam-Killingworth H.S. Class of 1990.


Class reunions are a cliché.

Apparently, they are a cliché that match the stereotype.
Why do reunions bring so much angst and anxiety for many people?
I believe that the answer is in the concept of Psychological Projection.

Psychological projection is the phenomena where people interpret or view their world based on their psychological state.
For example, people who have been the victim of deceit and/or people that are dishonest are more likely to view the people around them as dishonest.
There is an entire set of psychological assessment instruments called Psychological Projective.
Psychologists present the test subject to a large number of neutral and/or ambiguous stimuli.
What the subject “sees” is really based on their preoccupations and state-of-mind.

The most famous projective is the Rorschach Inkblot Test.

I prefer the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and Sentence Completion.

Instead of a random inkblot, the TAT presents the subject with real pictures of

I find it a little more direct and to the point.

So what does this have to do with reunions?
Or, am I digressing because I don’t take Concerta in the summer?

I believe the power of the reunion is that two sets of angst and anxiety collide – high school and our sense of current accomplishment.
I do not know anyone that does not wish for something more - money, beauty, love, sex, looks, health, fitness, a better relationship, etc.
Many think that these are the means to an end – happiness.
In reality, they start treating these ends themselves, and they lose sight of what is important.
Heck, even the people with all of those things often think, “I have all of these things? So why am I not happier, or why does my life not have deeper meaning?”

This is no different than high school cliques.
The archetype of cliques was most masterfully presented in the movies of John Hughes.
The Princess wanted a better home life and less peer-pressure.
The Criminal wanted a better home-life than being poor and abused.
The Jock wanted less pressure from his dad to get a scholarship.
The Brain wanted the cute girl and to be better at something other than math and science.
The Basket-Case wanted positive attention from parents and peers.
They all wanted to be loved and accepted as individuals.
In the movie, they all understood their commonality and bond, but they also acknowledged the reality of what would happen when they returned to their respective peer groups.

How much of your “label” or clique is a function of how people view you, and how much is how you view yourself?
Likewise, at the reunion, why does an update of your class-mates lives dictate how you feel about yourself?
We all changed.
We are all 20 years older.
Some, ok, MANY of us are balder.
Some look identical to our high school selves, and some of us required name tags to be recognized.
Some got poorer; some got richer.
Some ducklings became swans.
Slackers became CEO’s.
Some experience tragedy, and some got lucky.
Some became victims of circumstance, and others made bad choices.
Those who were voted, “Most likely to __(insert label here)___” are just like the men and women that you pass on the street.
I will be nice and not discuss the “over-compensaters.”

Guess what?
None of those labels determined happiness.
Some folks are going to be miserable wherever they are.
Some folks make the choice to be happy regardless of circumstance.
Some folks hated high school, but are happy now.
Some folks loved high school, but are unhappy now.

The ones who intrigued me are the folks that have good lives, but seemed embarrassed to talk about it.
Seriously, do you think that I care that you do not travel the world as an investigative journalist for National Geographic?
Besides, why do you give a crap what someone that you have not seen in 20 years thinks anyway?
The World’s Most Interesting Man is a marketing gimmick, not a bench-mark for your life.

Your neighborhood may be boring, but I bet it is a better place to raise kids than where I live.
You may be “just be” a PTA mom, but I know so many women who cannot afford to work less hours to be with their children.

Yes, I am the guy that got accepted to MIT, Dartmouth, Yale, the Air Force Academy, etc.
I am also the guy that failed out of MIT and felt like a lost soul in high school and college.
I only had one American girlfriend in the last semester of high school
My other hook-ups were with the exchange students that did not seem to know/care just how un-cool I was by American High School standards.
I also married a beautiful, intelligent, wonderful… and international… woman.
I would call her the woman of my dreams, but she surpasses my dreams.
(We met at work, but I really regret not making up a mail-order bride story for the reunion. )

In the end, the reunion has no meaning other than the meaning that you give it.
It is a psychological projective.
From that perspective, what meaning would you give a reunion?
What about the people you run into from your past?
Realize that these opinions are more indicative on how you view your life than anything else.

Ask yourself this-
Are you happy?
If not, what are you doing about it?
My experience has been that folks that seek the external pursuits of happiness – cars, money, sex, beauty, etc. – may achieve those ends, but they are not the means to happiness.
Many times, happiness is merely a choice.
Make the choices to appreciate what you have.
If you need to make a change, don’t buy a new car… make deep, meaningful changes.
When you get that invitation to the reunion, find the happiness within and follow the advice of my fellow triathletes and, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”
Stop giving a crap about your past, and, to quote Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”


1 comment: