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Marc Mason is a freelance writer based in Tempe, AZ.

Monday, September 29, 2008  
My 20th high school reunion was this past Saturday. I didn't go.

Now, as recently as this past June, if you had asked me if I were going to go, I'd have snorted derisively in your face and looked at you like you were stupid. Plus, I live kinda far away. But later in summer I had an epiphany about my adolescence and my school experiences and my tune changed.

I realized that, while I carried around plenty of the traditional youthful angst and pain, most of it truly had nothing to do with school or my fellow students. Were there blips? Sure. But most of it was down to the people I was related to, their petty squabbles, and the smoke. Dear god, the smoke.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that I was one lucky sonofabitch.

I had some amazing friends. We had some wonderful times. And I'm intensely grateful for every bit of it because now I know that there was no way I could have done it without them. They kept me sane. They kept me going.

And not just them. I was also lucky that some of those friends had parents who treated me like one of their own. The Beechlers. The Spencers. The Spanglers. Mrs. Kirkendorfer. The list goes on. I was able to leave an environment where I was struggling and go somewhere where I felt safe and welcome. That's a blessing. I took it for granted then. But I know what it means now, and I'll never forget it.

The circumstances we lived through... nasty car accidents... losing Danny Jenkins... gaining a new friend and a national spotlight when Ryan White joined us. I still take pride to this day in how we held up as class and as a school with the media watching us for even one false move. We showed the way for so many others. As seniors, it remains perhaps our lasting legacy: proving that you can educate kids about something important and they GET it.

So to my fellow '88ers, I can only say one thing: thank you. From the bottom of my heart, you made my life better. I didn't know all of you perfectly well, but even then: I was fortunate to walk the same halls with you. I hope you're all living happy, healthy lives, abundant with the things that mean the most to you, no matter what those may be.

And maybe I'll see you in five years. You never know.

6:40 PM

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