Chapter 11 : It's a Closure Type of Thing
December 2, 1998
I went to my high school reunion.

You have a concept of yourself that, for better or for worse, is shaped by your environment. Regardless of how much will you personally have to try to create yourself in your own image, you still become a product of your parent's beliefs, and the environments that supercede those beliefs once you begin to socialize.

It's the options open to you. The decisons presented that you are allowed or not allowed to take. The perspective that you develop on life, and how you perceive life around you. The information available to you at points in time, at junctures. No matter how much you try and make it your own, you still are taking clues and learning about your choices from the environment that you are immersed in.

You view others and end up viewing yourself through the eyes of others. You either appreciate or ridicule another's opinions, but in that instant, that opinion has shaped the way you view the world around you. It would not have gestated in the same way, have not affected you in the same manner as if it came from some other source.

And so again, I reflect on my memories, which are of course scuewed by my own need to validate my life and the decisions I have made. But to remain honest with myself I must admit a few things;

I wasn't popular in high school.

I was a geek, band fag, and whatever other label you want to place on the 'not cool kids.'

At one point, I spurned those that were my friends for greener pastures because I was tired of not being the cool kid. Of not being invited to the parties. Of not being recognized for the obviously hip, and 'in' person that I was.

I made a lot of mistakes.

But my rationale for going to the reunion - and the one that had me dragging my wife kicking and screaming along with me, was that I had not changed all that much. I may have matured in the social graces category, but I still had something to prove.

I am and will continue to be a product of my environment, no matter how much Zen I try to espouse to prove to myself that I am in control of my life, that I have reshaped myself into a better person.

But that is something else I was going to prove. That I had reshaped myself into a better person. I had to admit my mistakes. Or at least the blatant one of letting my self esteem be crushed by a bunch of kids who just didn't really matter in the scheme of my life, and that I let cowtow me into hurting and distancing myself from those who probably did.

Let me digress on that point for a moment, as it seems that I may be passing the blame for my assinine behavior as a child on other people and my environment. That would simply be too convinient. For it always comes down to the person making the decision. The influence of others and the environment simply sets the stage - the decision to take the hard road or the easy road is still up to the individual. I chose the easier road. Or at least one that I thought led to a somewhat greener pasture. It was no one elses fault but my own.

When I got to reunion, I was moved. Emotionally. Those that I had at one point or another declassified from my life, by not activily continuing a relationship when it became inconvenient were there, and were happy to see me. (Well, maybe they weren't happy to see me and simply humored me, but I felt at least some forgiveness).

The other reason I went was object curiousity. What had become of everyone? The suspense was killing me. The 'cool girls' still thought they were the 'cool girls.' The same for the guys. They sat at the same tables, and as I found out, they still lived in the same town, and hung out with the same people at the same local bar. My wife was even able to point them out to me before I noticed them.

But what are you to expect? When you reach the pinnacle of your life, and have become comfortable with your surroundings, it's hard to change. But it just seems such a travesty that people do this at a young age.. they never feel the need to move beyond their boundaries, they find comfort in the big, soft, warm blanket they have wrapped themselves in. Familiarity, routine.. all conspire against you to not explore, to not grow.

I realized something as a popular girl began to chat away at me, and suddenly made some disparaging comment about one of the 'not cool kids.' It was a high school comment, pulling up the past, and transfering it to the present. And I realized some people haven't changed at all. And I felt vindicated for wanting to be there to prove something. And to prove to myself that I had changed. To prove that I had succeded anyway. That, yes, you may have talked behind my back, or even to my face about my awkward ways, my naievity, my 'not quite hip' -ness (All the girlies say, he's pretty fly for a white guy).

But now, I'm the one with a gorgeous wife. You're the ones still single and hitting the bars for a lonely night of sex, while pushing 30. I'm the one with a beautiful son while you toil away about your cute neice or nephew, secretly wondering how I did it. I'm the one with a nice home, while you still live at home, with mom and dad. I'm the one with true friends, not a social life that consists of going to the same tavern night after night, with the same people, to see the same groups of people, to talk about the same things ("remember when I caught that touchtown in sophmore year?"). I'm the one who has a successful career, a published poem, a dog, a cat, a happy family. Yes, I'm gloating. Yes, I'm being petty.

I mean, it's not being married and having kids and all that, but more living in a town other than the one we grew up in, working, expanding their horizons. Granted, a few had moved on.. but then I always expected those individuals would. So I'm being petty.

Because you're looking at me now, and wondering "Hey, how'd he turn out so normal?" Or "Was he cool in high school?" You're coming up to talk to me, when you most likely wouldn't give me the time of day ten years ago. You care now? Well, then, let me rub your face in my happiness.

Because I am a product of my environment. I have become bitter from my mistakes, from the loss of my innocence. I have come to have the need to prove myself to people that shouldn't really matter in my life, but who, in helping create who I am today, I need to find closure with by showing them that they were wrong.

Not that I was right, but only that they were wrong.

That despite what they may have thought was important in high school, and most likely what they still find important today, never was important. It didn't matter to be invited to the parties, to date the cutest girl in school, to be the star (insert sport here) player. What is important is that I know who I am and I stop defining myself through other people's eyes, that I be me and take the hard road if need be.

Everyone may be a product of their environment, but that does not mean that I need to be ruled by it, subjegated to its whims of definitions and roles. I am a product of an environment, but I learn from it, adapt around it, and flatly refuse to allow it to continue to define who and what I will be to myself. I will challenge every 'truth' and perception handed to me. I will continue to be a product, but not one created with a prefabricated mold.

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