A Message to the Hamilton Heights High School class of 1988:
I wish I was there.
I really wanted to be there this time. Five years passed, and you couldn’t have dragged me back there. Ten years hit, and it seemed like maybe it was a good idea, but I decided against it; the timing was poor, and my zest for the idea was pretty low. So I stayed home. But this year was going to be different.
I started dreaming about it, actually. I think the week I got the invitation, I dreamt about the reunion three days in a row. My subconscious added different facets to the gathering each time, but the point was clear in my head: show up. See some folks. Have some laughs about the old days. Let some shit go. It was sounding like a pretty good plan
Good plans have a way of getting kicked in the genitals, though.
For those of you who don’t know, I left Indiana about two and half months after we graduated the Hammy, and I pitched my tent in Arizona. I went to Arizona State University, got a degree, and then had a typical crisis for many of us when I graduated and realized that I didn’t want to work in my field. So rather than go back to work for the state corporation commission as an investigator, or work as a counselor at a shelter for battered women and their children, or go to law school, I delved into my school job and became an information and technical librarian. In short, I teach people in libraries how to use the technology, and I also do IT work, keeping up my department’s computers and working in the network. I also design web pages and other fun things like that. ASU has the fifth largest computing network in the United States, and what that means is that I almost always have the most up-to-date technology to play with, and there’s always something new to teach and learn. It’s challenging work at best, and stupidly boring at worst. Probably a lot like whatever job you do.
I met my beloved Rebecca in early 2000, and we’ve been happy together since. Before that, the romantic life pretty much sucked. Some of you got married right out of high school, some of you waited a while, and some of you are still single, but we’ve all gone through the pain of shitty relationships at one point, and we know how that goes. I think I was in AZ for eight years before I ever went out with someone who wasn’t a complete lunatic who made me miserable, so even waiting four more years after that to meet Rebecca (I affectionately call her “Monk”, which is short for “Love Monkey” – you don’t want to know) was worth it. She makes life worth waking up for every day. She had been married before to a man who had three daughters, and they all three consider her to be their mother, so she’s kept joint custody of them and two of them live with us. Jessica is a fourteen year-old attitude problem, and Krysten is a seven year-old little peanut who calls me “Daddy” since she was very young when she moved to be with us and really doesn’t know her biological dad very well. Those guys who have kids understand real well what it’s like that first time your child calls you “Daddy”; few experiences can ever match it.
But with kids come problems, and this past spring, we had a huge one with the elder one, and it completely ate our savings fixing it. Since then, we’ve tried to put the money aside so that I could catch a flight out there this weekend, but things like having to replace all four tires on our car kind of killed that, so here I am, sitting in the desert while you’re all there hanging out and having a good time.
I suppose what I’m really trying to say in telling you all this stuff is that fifteen years later, I’m simply a person doing his best to get by in our crazy world. Back at HHHS, we each had our sets of friends, our activities, and our struggles. We didn’t all like each other, and many of us had nothing in common then, but that isn’t necessarily true now. High school is a brutal and somewhat de-humanizing experience, and that’s difficult to accept. Frankly, I didn’t do so well with it, and it contributed greatly to my desire to move as far from Indiana and start over fresh when we were done. I felt like if I stayed there, I would never grow past the perceptions and the hurts I had when I was in school. So sweating in the desert was a good thing for me.
I was angry when I left Indiana, and I stayed that way for a while. In the fifteen years that have passed, I’ve been back to Indiana seven or eight times at most, and not once since Christmas 1998. But now I’m sorry I can’t break that streak this weekend in order to see you all. I was ready.
We’re all 33-34 years old. We’re grown-ups, like it or not. Families, jobs, bills, fears. You aren’t who you were in 1988. I’m not who I was then. For years, I didn’t care about that, but now I sincerely do: I wanted to know who you all were, and I wanted you to know who I was, too. I’m just sorry that I didn’t get that chance this weekend, and I hope and pray that I get that chance again in 2008. I wish each of you the best, and that you have a happy and safe reunion. Thanks for listening to me babble on incoherently for the last few minutes.