Thoughts by Richard Bleil
My high school graduating class is one of the few from my generation (of which I am aware) with a page on social media. I do belong to it, although I’m not quite sure why. I didn’t have many friends when I was in high school, and the few that I do want to keep in touch with, I do. Still, it’s interesting to see a periodic post from an old name I haven’t heard in many years, and often wonder if I can get my lunch money back.
In the past few weeks, the cross chatter on the page has dramatically increased. It’s no real surprise since our fortieth-class reunion will be this year. Before you ask, no, I’m not going. I’m not sure why I would want to, and I’ve no doubt that nobody will care if I attend or not.
My high school was very jock oriented. I, myself, had no athletic abilities, and the only clubs I joined was because I had a crush as opposed to any real interest in the club itself or its activities. I was pretty much raised to keep to myself and avoid drawing attention, but the high school I was in was all about getting attention. I’ve posted before about the middle school teacher who singled me out in a lecture as an example of someone who just doesn’t fit in “and probably never will.” This was quite a prophetic statement, since I’m sitting here over forty years later in my house alone blogging.
It’s not how I wanted to be. I guess it’s never how any of us wanted to be, but I never fit in with any group. I had no athletic talent, could play no instruments (as you might recall from my blog about my drum lessons), and was too reserved to fit in with the “bad kids”. In a school of clicks, I was adrift, and invisible.
I was so invisible that the one reunion to which I did go, our fifteenth if I’m remembering correctly, throughout the night I heard the same question from multiple individuals; “which alumni’s husband are you?” I guess it’s fair, most of the faces I saw I failed to recognize anyway. One such failure is actually a source of great shame to me. Her name was Jane, and she did recognize me. The issue, I believe, is that in high school she, like me, was just all too quiet. And me? I had eyes for her friend who, as it turns out, was not at the reunion. But Jane had grown into a beautiful woman and was very sweet. I spoke with her for quite some time and was honest that I didn’t remember her. It was not until some time later that I remembered her after all. I truly hope I didn’t hurt her feelings. Jane, if I did, wherever you are, I am truly sorry. My failure to remember you was my loss, not yours. Believe me on that.
I’m guessing things have changed quite a bit since the fifteen-year reunion. Back then, everybody was interested in blowing their own horn, as if impressing others is somehow important. I never worried about impressing anybody. Heck, I think it’s actually comical when somebody speaks of my “successes” as if I am somehow successful. I don’t feel it. In fact, one of the most surrealistic moments came when I was speaking with Jane. A young woman excitedly joined in our conversation. Seeing her excitement, I asked what was up. She proudly announced, “I’m going to win the most successful alumni award!” “Oh?” I retorted. “And why is that?”
“I checked with every alumni here,” she replied, “and I’m the only one with a doctorate!”
I just looked at her, holding back a chuckle. “Oh,” I said, “congratulations.” The look she shot at me was an odd one, to be sure. To this day, I’m not even sure which alumni’s wife she was.
Okay, that was mean. I’m sorry. But, if that acknowledgment is important to her, then I’m happy for her. I hope she did win. Me? I anonymously slipped into the night. About the only alumni that did recognize me was my friend Pene. I do like her. She has a spirit to be envied, and is one of the main driving forces behind these reunions and the reason that so many of the over eight hundred alumni from our single class have kept in touch.
To the Elks of 1981, I hope you have a terrific reunion, and wish you all the very best. I hope that you have all lived charmed lives, full of love, laughter and family. Take it from one of yours who has been adrift for far too long; that is what constitutes true success.