I’m writing this on the day of my 30th High School Reunion. No, I’m not traveling the 3000 miles it would take to go there and be at the party tonight. So let me start by saying this isn’t going to be some happy ending story where the main character (loser, gay, nerd) goes to his high school reunion and finds out he’s the successful, happy, and well-liked person he never was in high school. Hollywood happy endings like that don’t happen in real life. Well, there is a happy ending, but you’ll have to get to the end of the story to hear what it is.
First let’s go back 30 years and see who I was in high school and what being at my high school in the early 80s was like. My high school was similar to the ones in Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink, (all 80s high school films) but only even more so if you can imagine it. Stereotypes on steroids. I say that because I attended at the time, the largest suburban high school in the United States (at least according to U.S. News and World Report). When you have almost 1500 students in your graduating class all under one roof, there’s going to be hyper-segregation. The jocks really only hung out with the jocks, the populars with the populars, etc.
To give you an idea of who I was in this high school, I was one of a handful of Asian Americans in an essentially all white high school (I think there were like 4 Asian Americans in my whole class) and I was the nerd. I hadn’t come to grips yet with my own sexuality and being gay, but it was brewing in the background and it certainly made dating non-existent in high school (and being an Asian American male didn’t help that cause either). During the day, I hung out with all the other smart, nerdy kids (we were grouped and segregated that way by classes). I also had a reputation to live up to from my older sister who graduated valedictorian of her super-large class. But I wasn’t a success in my high school like my sister, I didn’t land either of the top two spots of my graduating class (or third or fourth for that matter), instantly labeling me the loser in my Asian American family. But I was the one in high school you could rely on to copy homework from, run the school club, etc.
I didn’t have great friends, but I found a few other outcasts to hang around with. My inner circle included the one kid in the entire school who was better at math than I was (which is why I never got a school award the entire time I was in high school – math was my strong suit, and having someone better than me at math, ensured I’d never win the “Best in Math” award, ever – another Asian American loser moment, but since my friend was better at math, he was geekier and more of an outcast), the girl who was first chair violinist in the school orchestra who never quite fit in, and one of the overweight girls, who was always shunned by the popular girls. That was my closest circle of friends in high school.
So, it should be no surprise, that I’ve never had a desire to go to my high school reunion. Whether it was the 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, or 25th reunion, I’ve never thought to myself, “I should go, see what everyone’s been up to”, because truthfully the only people that I care to know what they’ve been up to (my close circle and a few others), I’ve found on Facebook or some other social media in recent years, caught up, and know that they too would also never go to a high school reunion. Why? Because high school wasn’t great as the losers and outcasts. High school wasn’t something to remember fondly, it was something we tolerated, and patiently waited for the day the stress, anxiety and feeling of insecurity would go away.
So every time I mention it’s my high school reunion to my wonderful, loving husband, he asks me why I’m not going. He attended one of the smallest if not smallest schools in the United States, and had a close circle of friends in high school. I think there were 9 in his graduating class, so you had to know everyone and get along with everyone. And everyone in the high school was pretty much the same homogeneous group, they were all white, all from farm families, a tight knit community where everyone really did know everyone else’s business.
But back to me. Yes, my instant reaction was not to go to my 30th high school reunion when I first saw the news about it. But it was also the first reunion I actually considered going, even for a split second, because for the first time, I realized, I didn’t care what everyone else thought about me in high school, that I was happy with me being me, and maybe, just maybe it would be fun seeing what’s happened to everyone else in the last 30 years.
It took 30 years, but I’m finally, completely happy with who I am. I didn’t change. I’m a gay Asian American geek. And I love it. It’s who I am. It’s the acceptance that took so long.
So yes, this blog post seems very self-serving and rah-rah me. But I decided to write for all those high school kids out there who feel like they’re the outcasts in their high school, that they don’t fit in, and they get bullied or made fun of. It’s cliche but it’s true, it does get better. And maybe by reading this it won’t take you 30 years to figure it all out, that you’re great and wonderful just as you are.