7.17.2009

Screw Reunions

If you follow me on Twitter or have me friended on Facebook, you probably saw a link to a blog post by Mark Chu-Carroll, a PhD Math guy who is a software developer at Google, on why he won't be attending his high school reunion.

If you were a geek, nerd, social outcast or the target of bullying when you were in school, you read that post, stood up and screamed "RIGHT ON, MARK!" and pumped your fist in the air. At least, I did.

I didn't go to my 10 year reunion. I wasn't beat up in high school, but I really, really hated being there. I didn't hate everyone there, and I certainly don't hold any grudges outside of one toward the entire experience itself. But I don't feel any sense of nostalgia when I think of that place (which isn't often - only when I read things like what Mark wrote, or when my buddy Mike feels compelled to start rattling off the yearbook update to me). All I think of is how little I wanted to be there, and how little everyone there thought of me, except for two very special groups of people - my core friends, and the guys I beat the shit out of when they picked on them.

I was the 'fat kid' through elementary and junior high schools, always MUCH larger than the other kids - but not necessarily fat, just a large child. Didn't really matter, I was still "the fat kid", as it's impossible to convince children of anything once they've decided to label you.

I spent the first 4 years of school in an all-black school, tormented by the older kids in that school because I was white. I moved to suburbia and was suddenly tormented by all the white kids because I dressed and sounded "black" (I listened to mostly R&B and rap, such was the popular thing in the culture I'd just left). I spent the next few years hiding the fact that I actually loved hip hop culture more than I loved white imbred country music and the like, and as most people who have spent any time hiding who they really are will tell you, it was hell trying to keep that secret. And I got my ass kicked by the redneck kids who saw me wearing Starter clothing or British Knights sneakers, just as I'd been beaten up in elementary school by black kids for having white skin or straight hair. Stupidity, it seems, needs little in the way of honest reasons to exist or take action.

Then, around 8th grade, I grew. I went from the mid five-foot range to about 6'3" in a single year, all the while maintaining a near-200lb frame. Some of the common bullies still felt compelled to mess with me, and one day I woke up and smacked one of them real good. Suddenly, the physical violence stopped. In fact, NO ONE except for staff and the coaches talked to me. For any reason.

When I went to high school, I left everyone I knew in that life and entered a brand new social environment. I was a giant of a freshman. I played football and wrestled. And I felt like I didn't have a friend in the world, because the geeks all saw me as a jock and the jocks all saw me as either a) a wannabe black kid or b) a nerd. So, I spent the first year of my high school life to myself almost 100% of the time. Believe it or not, there actually was a time when Joe Peacock was the quiet type... At least, in front of those people.

In 10th grade, I fell in with a fantastic group of guys who were in my same boat - they just didn't fit into any category. We played D&D together, one of them was a "skate punk", one was a mathlete and the other two were art nerds. We were all academics, but hated homework and tests and the rudiments of routine. The "smart kids" hated our smart-ass attitude, the rest of the school thought we were just freaks.

We had a blast together, because we actually got one another. Five guys out of a school of over 2,000 people who actually took the time to get to know one another, because they just didn't fit any other class of people. No false fronts to fit in, no concern about what clothes the other was wearing... We just liked each other for who we were. And as anyone who went to high school knows, in that environment, that's the absolute worst way to pick friends if you want to have any sort of social standing whatsoever.

When I think back on high school, I can't really say anyone truly hated me outside of the super neanderthals who just wanted to beat on anyone perceived as weaker than them. I went out of my way to insult and berate these guys - and I wish I could say it was to teach them some grand lesson, and that I was an instrument of karma. But that's not true. I hated them. I just wanted to insult them and make them feel shame at all times. But everyone else just looked at me with a sneer, or a mild curiosity (not the kind that makes you want to figure something out, but more like the kind that makes you wonder how this person actually manages to feed and clothe themselves because they're so wierd).

I shunned my reunion because all I could think of is how no one would give a shit what I was doing or the person I'd become... The smart kids would still see me as a dumb jock. The jocks would still see me as a loser. The art kids... Well, none of them would show up anyway. But the thing is, I couldn't care less what those people actually think of me. I could walk into a room full of them and be just fine, not giving one shit about anything going through their brains or coming out of their mouths. However, I don't see any reason whatsoever to willingly put myself in that position - and paying actual cash for the privilege of doing so is doubly distasteful. So fuck it.

I have nothing to prove to anyone I went to school with. If we've made contact and become friends these days, it's on the terms that we're both adults who find each other worth talking to. And thanks to Facebook (and the fact that I show up in Google several hundred thousand times), it has happened a few times. But I see no reason whatsoever to pretend that 4 years spent in the same building with someone necessitates a relationship with them.

I've got some great shit going on these days, and I'm proud of who I am and what I do. I am married to the greatest woman in the world (who, funny enough, has an almost identical story to tell about her school days, only she grew up in Europe and cast out when she moved to America because she wasn't a "real American" - funny thing to say about someone who's father defended our country). I have 3 great dogs and too many cats. I write books people like and draw pretty pictures that companies like and have met some of the greatest people I know through my websites.

I love my life. I feel no need to defend it, explain it, or bother with people who wouldn't get it. And that's almost everyone I went to high school with. They didn't get me then. I've only become a more personified and open verison of me than I was then... How would they ever get me now?