This afternoon I received a message on Facebook from someone I went to high school with. She asked me if I was attending our 30th high school reunion. I told her I knew nothing about it, so she said she’d forward the information to me.
Then I saw that the reunion is scheduled for next weekend. As in less than two weeks away.
And in the blink of an eye all those old feelings started to rise up.
I’ll spare you all the sordid details of my “growin’ up.” Just know this- I was never the cool kid. I entered adolescence chunky and I stayed that way until my parents bought me an 11 foot v-hull fiberglass boat with a brand new 4HP Evinrude engine. I spent the summer before 8th grade on the Withlacoochee River every day. My mom would give me a couple bucks for gas if she had it, and I’d run that river every day until the gas ran out or it got dark. Other kids were hanging out at each other’s houses and swimming in pools. I was catching alligators and swimming in Gum Slough. I took a glass of lemonade and a pickle wrapped in cheese every day. By the end of the summer, chunkiness wasn’t a problem for me.
But being poor still was. And living seven miles outside of town was, too. I was a river rat. I grew up living in a trailer. Not exactly the set of circumstances that provide an in with the cool, rich kids.
So I gravitated towards the cool, not-rich kids. I was so desperate to be liked that I did a lot of dumb, sometimes crazy stuff. I just wanted people to like me. It seemed like people paid more attention to me when I acted out or made them laugh, so that’s what I did. Eventually I found a place where I felt comfortable, where I didn’t feel like such a hanger-on, someone out on the fringes of the cool group.
Instead of going to high school football games and formal dances, I went drinking on Government Hill, or the dairy farm, or the pines, or mudslinging in Moccasin Slough. You’ve never lived until you’ve been riding in the back of a 4×4 Bronco and go bouncing through a mudhole and it takes a few minutes before you realize that thing poking you in the ass is the barrel of some redneck’s shotgun laying on the back floorboards. While most kids my age were shopping at the mall on a Friday night, I was walking through Moccasin Slough at midnight with my best friend with no flashlight, trying to find the road because that Bronco was stucker than stuck and the guys sent us for help.
I met one of my lifelong best friends during this time. I had a lot of fun.
And that led to my entire 20s being spent living life on the wild side, or as wild as a river rat was going to get.
Time passed. I was never invited to a high school reunion. I knew they had them but nobody ever invited me. Ten years came and went, nothing. Twenty years came and went. I joined Classmates.com thinking that would make it easier for people to find me.
But nobody ever did.
So I eventually stopped worrying about being remembered and included and I just went about the process of living my life the way I wanted to and making new friends.
With age comes wisdom, right? The older I got, the less interested I was in chasing people and trying to get them to like me.
Every birthday gets a little harder when I look in the mirror and I see more gray hair, more wrinkles on my face, an awful metabolism that’s even more awful now.
But you know what’s great about 48? When you realize that the four years of high school don’t matter anymore. Sure, I still have some lifelong friends from high school and social media has made it easy to keep in touch.
But I don’t chase anyone for anything anymore.
You like me? Cool. Let’s hang out and see how it goes.
Sixteen years ago I met a bunch of strangers on a message board. These are people that have traveled to my house from as far away as England to Australia, California to Canada.
Can you believe that? I met a bunch of strangers on the internet and they have paid a lot of their hard earned money to fly to my town and stay in my house, to ride on my jet ski or paddle in my kayaks.
I flew across the country in 2003 with only 24 hours notice to attend a slumber party with a bunch of women I couldn’t even pick out of a lineup. I met my sister from another mister that day.
And one of the smartest, funniest chicks I know.
I’ve flown to England to see the Foo Fighters with them.
We’ve done a lot together. In fact, two of them just came to see me last month. While we were floating on the Gulf of Mexico we were already planning our next vacation.
You know what I’ve learned about myself? I do love a good vacation plan.
When I got that message earlier today I immediately felt the old, familiar pangs of “not enough.” Not cool enough, not rich enough, not whatever enough for anyone to remember to include me.
But the beauty of being 48 is being able to stop that nonsense dead in its tracks because this isn’t 1986, and I’m not in high school anymore. And if I get real still and think about it, I don’t really give a shit that nobody thought to invite me until less than two weeks before the reunion.
Also? I don’t care if I listen to music that’s not “cool.” I know every single word to Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Kind of Life and I AM NOT ASHAMED.
This is me now. Older, wiser, a lot more cantankerous and a lot less likely to put up with people who PBS (perpetrate bullshit).
I’m not chasing anyone to try and get them to like me ever again.
I’m too old for that.
And I’m finally too cool for that.