i just got back from my 20-year high school reunion.
what an adventure.
i was a bit nervous - and worried - i admit it. i've changed somewhat, in what people see. i'm not nearly as skinny as i used to be, for starters. i was worried that people wouldn't recognize me, and i'd see it in their eyes as they searched for my name: "...(ohmygod-she's gained so much weight-who was she when she was thin)...oh hi, yes, of course!" but that didn't happen. or at least, not that i noticed. (i did, of course, go straight to bed and dream that it happened, that i showed up in my old black leather motorcycle jacket that i used to stomp around the halls in and someone grabbed my arm, saying 'boy, you've filled out, haven't you?' seriously, what a waste of a perfectly good dream-time, right?)
but at the reunion, one of the first conversations i had with old friends - and i mean OLD friends, like this was a group of people that i went to kindergarten with and went on family vacations with and went to junior high dances with and skipped class with in high school and saw again on our kids' first day of kindergarten - was somehow sort of telling.
"we're all sort of the same, you know?" said one friend.
i said, "you mean, deep down inside, we all have the same dreams and goals as each other?"
the group around the table laughed. "no," said the speaker, "i mean we're all the same, at the core, as we were back then."
the beauty of that few hours, for me, is that both interpretations of that were true. we were all the same - in our deepest core - as we once were. which means that all that striving and trying during those angst-filled years was for naught - and that we are nothing more or less than we always have been, for better or for worse.
but also, the other - at the end of the day, we are all the same. we were all there laughing together and remembering things and talking about struggles with kids and some of us divorced and some of us never married and some with many kids and some with no kids but there was a piece of us that was all the same - this piece that is the product of our place, our time, ourselves and each other - a mysterious alchemy of personality and environment that affected us all.
when i got home today, i dug out my senior yearbook. in one section we had been asked the standard sort of cheesy yearbook sound-bite question: where will you be in five years? and i didn't really have to look up my answer - i remember its general gist quite clearly - but i did anyway, and was struck for the first time just how still completely true it still was (note in particular the misuse of the word "hopefully"):
"MINDY CRANDALL: 'Hopefully I will be driving around the U.S. looking at everything and listening to everyone.' "
well, for fuck's sake. that's just who i am. i have no real higher goal, no loftier aspirations now, no matter what i dabbled with or proclaimed over the past 20 years. i am who i am, and always have been, no matter what shell i'm wrapped in, no matter where i am or what i'm doing, i'm still the same person that these people knew - and somewhat grudgingly accepted - all those years ago.
and that, my friends, is a pretty fucking sweet feeling. it is, in fact, what going home is all about.