I recently received an e-mail from the folks planning my latest high school reunion. As in reunions of the past, I am completely torn about attending.
When I first learned of this year's reunion, the plan was that I would extend the trip to show my partner around my old stomping grounds. There was also the aspect of feeling somewhat more secure because he would be with me and be so excited about everything. He is from the US Pacific Northwest, and has never been to the New York City area, where I grew up. There were informal plans of various things to do - visit my sister at the Jersey Shore, take in a Broadway show, etc. But he can't go, so I would be going alone.
That isn't a big deal on the face of it - he and I will make that sightseeing, memory-exploring trip at some point.
But as the years have gone by, I have become increasingly introverted - like, beyond what anyone realizes. Socializing is exhausting for me. It literally takes me days to recover. There was a social event in which I participated several years ago, when a friend came to town with her longtime playwright partner to see a performance of a play he had written. And I goofed that up. I doubt he even thinks about it, but it sticks with me. I was wiped out for the better part of a week.
The most recent socializing was performing a wedding. There was no way to back out once I was committed - I was the center of the storm as the officiant, and I could not change my mind. I really didn't want to, and I didn't - but man, was it difficult. It was my affection for those marrying that kept me from reversing course. It was all great - lovely day, lovely company - but I think the major plus was that the wedding was super small: two people getting married, two witnesses, and me. I mean, I was all in black and polyester and it was 100 degrees, but I would not have traded that day for any in the last five years.
When social events come along, my initial response to any invitation is to be flattered and have a sincere desire to attend. As the date draws closer, there is an increasing sense of dread and panic. If I power through and commit to attending, I spend days preparing mentally and organizing to be able to go through with it. It is about storing the mental energy as well as psychological defenses. It was a bit easier to do this when I was on certain medications, but it is always a challenge.
The energy store is somewhat critical, but the psychological part is often just as important. I don't look in the mirror and see what others see. Every social insecurity I've ever had is right in my face. Don't talk too much. Don't overshare. No loud colors. Accept how you look, and don't think about it. Watch your voice. Watch your hands. Watch your posture. Be unremarkable, inoffensive, and as normal as you can. All of this can easily become Just don't do it and save everyone a lot of grief.
In April 2018, I participated in the NoH8 campaign by having my picture taken by photographer Adam Bouska. I have not modeled in 30 years, and there is a picture taken of me perhaps once a decade, not counting official photos for licenses or other IDs, so doing this was HUGE. It is a cause I believe in, and once I told my partner about it, there was no backing out. He was so frickin' excited. And he knew it was a major thing for me to do, and it is now his favorite picture of me, largely because I didn't back out, and I did push through and violate my comfort zone. Only a very small handful of my friends commented to me privately about this, because they knew what a difficult and momentous thing for me to do.
So now I am thinking about this reunion, and I don't really know what to do. We, in my graduating class, lose more classmates every year. One of the more recent hit me particularly hard. His death was sad, but the saddest part for me was his fear. I wish I could have saved him from that. Having been dead myself, I am no longer afraid of it. The losses still sting when another passes, but I also know from my own experience the peace that comes, and it isn't something easy or even appropriate to communicate.
I digress. The point is, with each passing year, the opportunity to see any of the people that I might see at such a reunion diminishes. We're all getting older, it's just a fact of life. And with age also comes ever-expanding families and perhaps reduced ability to participate. In short, this may be one of my last chances to be a part of something like this, or see many of these people.
But there is that ability to mentally prepare - I may not have that luxury. Traveling is stressful, and I can't afford to be there for many days before the event trying to prep. A Friday night reunion might mean traveling Thursday, at best, after working the first half of the week. I'd probably fly back Sunday.
And then I have to quiet the internal insecurities - with the added bonus of revisiting every misstep, every self-image, every memory of high school. For the greater part, I enjoyed high school - I had great friends, great experiences, and I have amazing memories - but there were also negative influences, both within school and without. I lived in the town for seven years leading up to my graduation, so there are a lot of memories and experiences to comb through.
As a logical, thinking adult, I don't care what others think about most things, but there will always be opinions that I value among people who meant so much to me for so many years. Introverts select their friends very, very carefully, and for me, it really is that methodical. A lot of people I admired in high school will be there, and their impressions remain important. I mean, that's ridiculous on its face, and I know that. None of them have any impact on my daily life now, and I shouldn't be a prisoner to the impressions of my teenage self.
And then there are those who were... we'll say abusive. I am not confrontational, but the adult me is not the teenage me, and I don't tolerate bullies now. It is the one situation that triggers me, and it startles people how I react, usually on behalf of others. My partner is protective and has a much shorter fuse, and it is probably a good thing that he wouldn't be with me if the wrong person said something that he thought was disrespectful. I really don't want to be on the news.
I don't know which population will be more present, and I don't know if I want to go through all this to be around the wrong group. I can't decide if it would be positive or healthy. I know there are people I would see that would likely overshadow any negativity. I really do miss a lot of them sometimes, but thanks to Facebook and other social media, I have stayed in touch with anyone even remotely of interest. Social media interaction is not the same as the real world, however, even if it is so much easier for an introverted, shy, social anxious personality.
So I have four weeks to the deadline to make a decision. We'll see how it goes.