Sunday, October 16, 2016

Class of 1996

Last Saturday was my 20th high school reunion. 20 years! I graduated high school 20 years ago. Inconceivable.
But I digress.

I didn't love high school. Our nephew just started high school and I worry for him. If I had to repeat high school--especially in this day and age--I would have pigeon-sized butterflies swimming in my stomach.

High school did not offer the best years of my life. I actually think I ran screaming from the double doors on the last day of classes. This was the message I wrote on my class banner. I was as bitter as a crab apple.
"Class of '96, 
I hope you all grow up someday, but I doubt it. Good luck anyway! 
Patrice E. Kopec"

I'm not sure why I disliked high school so much. It was just a weird time for me. I wrote this in my diary 4 months into my freshman year: "I'm finally adjusting to high school, but I hate all the fights, peer pressure and smoke." Sounds like the best of times, huh?

I had a few cards stacked against me when I entered as a freshman. I had braces, four eyes, remnants of a bad perm, I laughed a little too much and I was still waiting for puberty to happen. To give you a better picture of the puberty part, I'll share this gem. The summer prior to starting high school, I gained a nickname because of a hot pink bikini I wore: Pink Floyd's "The Wall." I came from a small Catholic school--very small, as in 6 people in my graduating class--to a large public school (~300 in my class). I had no idea how to effectively change classes or open a locker (something about turning the mini wheel twice past zero??). Instead, I made my scoliosis worse by carrying around five huge textbooks because the thought of trying to get from A to B with a stop at my locker within the 4 minutes allotted between classes seemed superhuman. With my newfound freedom to wear something other than a plaid dress uniform and knee-high blue socks, I had a calendar dedicated to planning out my outfits, down to perfume choice.

I ranked low on the hierarchy built on sports, extra curricular activities, smarts, fashion sense, looks and clowning around. I was bookish, just not in the valedictorian way. I memorized WWII dates, struggled through Calculus and dissected a frog. I ran track and played field hockey, but was often benched. Seriously, my track coach would send my friend Amanda and I out for a long run on our own because he didn't care about fine-tuning our form (for the record, either did we. We would run to a friend's house and hang out, then return to practice claiming we ran 3 miles).

Despite all this, I wasn't entirely unpopular and more importantly, I survived. People told me they remember me as one of the most genuine and thoughtful gals in the class. In fact, my very good male friend, Matt, pulled me aside to tell me just how much he valued my friendship in high school. His kind words almost brought me to tears (J needs to step up his game). In any case, I needed that reassurance after reading what I wrote on my class banner!

You may be asking why in the world I would have wanted to attend my high school reunion if I felt so strongly about those formative years. I was wondering the same thing. Here are 4 reasons why I decided to go:

1) I didn't have the nerve to go to my 10-year reunion, because, well, that's just High School Part 2.  The statue of limitations on harboring ill feelings toward anyone usually expires around 20 years. Truthfully, I have changed dramatically since high school and even in the last 10 years. I feel pretty proud of the life I've built. I knew I could confidently walk the halls (so to speak).

2) Aren't we all curious? The popular people actually live ordinary lives! But they still won't give you the time of day. Oh, and my high school crush lost hair and gained a belly. How's that for retribution? I really need to tell my nephew that whatever you do to be cool in school won't mean jack days after graduation.

3) Facebook allows us all to "keep in touch" pretty well, but status updates are not real conversations. Face time (not the ap) is good for our health and very few events these days allow us the opportunity to really reconnect with people.

4) J and I share everything these days, but it's nice to take a walk down pre-couple memory lane in an effort to learn even more about each other. It only forges a stronger bond.

If you are on the fence about attending your own reunion, I say go. I had fun. There were only a handful of my fellow grads (50/300) who attended, and very few of my friends, but I am still glad I went!


Best friends then, best friends now. 

8 comments:

Misti said...

Ah, I think we might have had similar experiences but I did enjoy high school for the most part. I had a variety of friends in many different groupings so I never fit into one---I had band, choir, athletic, art, and studious friends (AP/Honors). And of course 'regular' friends. The ones I stayed closest to were the ones I knew, mostly, before high school, though of course that changed as time went on as well.

I went to my 10 year and it was fun. I was actually thinking of skipping my 20, though.

Sara said...

Love you too, Patrice!

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Shayna said...

I hated high school too, that's why I left the country for senior year! I still don't think I can stomach going back, to spend time and money with people who never gave me the time of day. I wasn't bullied, but never gained long-lasting friendships.
You've definitely kept a positive perspective and are a good inspiration for attending mine in 2019.

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