In case you’re playing “Where’s Waldo?” I’m in the 5th row, 3rd from the right with the afro.
I do not believe that anyone does anything without a reason. We may not want to admit to the reason out of shame or embarrassment, or the reason for our behavior may be so buried in our subconscious that we are not even aware of our motivation and therefore unable to give voice to it. But trust me, there is always a reason for the things we do or do not do.
It is possible that the reason may be absurd and completely unjustifiable to even ourselves as in the case of Brenda Ann Spencer, the rare female school shooter, who when asked why she carried out her assault, which killed two adults and wounded eight children, flippantly replied, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”
That shooting occurred in January of 1979 on an elementary school playground in San Diego. In the summer that followed, which was the summer before my senior year — perhaps the greatest summer of my life — the Irish new wave band The Boomtown Rats released the chilling song “I Don’t Like Mondays.” It reached number #1 on the UK charts but topped out at #73 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. For some odd reason, however, it was hugely popular with me and a number of my friends. Remember: this was in 1979! Long before school shootings became endemic in America.
It is also the case that when asked why they performed some mischievous deed, a child will sometimes say, “Because I felt like it,” but that is hardly evidence to the contrary of my claim. It is more of an admonition from the child to mind your own business than an attempt to explain or justify their actions.
Although I’m no expert in psychology, I do know a bit about storytelling, and I’m absolutely positive and I insist to my students that in that realm “Because I felt like it” is an unacceptable explanation for a character’s behavior. Unless, of course, the character is a complete sociopath. Astute readers demand that a character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings are clear, consistent, and credible. In fact, it is often the case that, when any of these three conditions are not met, a reader quits on a story, finding it beyond their ability to suspend their disbelief in order to continue.
All of which brings me, of course, to my Hamlet-like indecisiveness regarding whether or not to attend an upcoming high school reunion. Ever since receiving the informal invitation, I have been debating the prospect, bouncing back and forth between confirming my intention to attend and ignoring the invite entirely. As is, I do not feel inspired to go, and be assured that I have no delusion that my presence or absence would have any impact whatsoever on anyone else’s enjoyment of the day. I just wish I could identify and clearly explain to myself for self-actualization purposes the reason(s) for my reluctance to attend.
My 40th reunion should have occurred during the Covid-19 summer of 2020. For obvious reasons, it did not take place. Currently, however, several of my former classmates are attempting to rectify the omission by offering to host a sort of makeup occasion this summer, which is wonderfully magnanimous of them. Despite my appreciation for their efforts, however, I can’t quite convince myself to commit to attending, and despite the assertion with which I began this essay that there is always a reason for the things we do or do not do, I cannot put my finger on exactly what the reason(s) is for my hesitation.
I’ve long held that no one ever really graduates from high school. I mean, obviously, we receive a diploma and move on with our lives, but psychologically and emotionally we walk those locker-lined hallways inside our psyches for the rest of our lives. Some do so nostalgically, believing those were their best days. Others do so wistfully as if in a nightmare from which they cannot awake. Still others, among them myself, walk those fancied halls in a perpetual state of ambivalence, neither wallowing in those glory days nor desperate to escape them.
I also have a much-less-than-indisputable theory on the type of person who enthusiastically organizes and/or attends high school reunions. I believe they are typically the type of person who was consistently kind to and respectful of all of their classmates, and I love them for that. I am especially impressed by those who were the victims of bullying or social marginalization while in high school but have chosen forgiveness over continued hurtfulness. In either case and regardless of their high school status, THEY ARE THE COOL KIDS even if, in their classmates’ immaturity, it went unappreciated at the time or still goes unappreciated today. I truly admire them.
My best attempt at self-psychoanalysis has conjured the following as the most likely explanations (mostly petty) for my aversion to reunions.
- My academic and athletic mediocrity left little impression on the school, my classmates, or myself. Therefore there seems little reason to revisit those days or the people I shared them with.
- I was never particularly popular nor unpopular in high school. I have no close friends from that era who have remained present in my life, nor did I have to contend with any bullies or tormentors to whom I’d like to say, “Look at me now!”
- Regret, knowing I could have and should have been such a better person/student/athlete/friend/boyfriend then than I was.
- Disappointment regarding my lack of a wildly interesting or impressive life story post-graduation to dazzle my classmates with.
- The stark realization of just how much time has passed since we were in high school and how little remains ahead of us.
- Knowing there is nothing I can do to change the past, I’ve long tried to live my life without a rearview mirror, preferring to keep my eyes focused on what’s next rather than on what lies in my wake.
- Because of the lack of significant time spent with my classmates over the years, I cannot imagine any interaction beyond surface-level niceties, which will be awkward and of little substantive value.
- Similar to New Years Eve parties, the inorganic nature of a reunion renders it difficult to have a sincerely-good time.
- I may just be an ass.
I’m currently leaning towards that final reason.
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