WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Shriek, memory

Aaaaarrrrrrggghhhhhhh!!!

I don’t know about you, but I was damn glad to get out of high school. It wasn’t the very best of experiences for me, partly because, halfway through, the district redrew the lines determining which high school you’d go to depending on your address, and my two best friends and I were separated. In the new place I felt like a stranger in a strange land a lot of the time. Plus I sucked at athletics and dating.

I went to a local college, but only one of my classmates from high school went there. She and I never ran into each other. (I always recall, though, that she and I had both skipped the high school senior photo, understanding that the images would mortify us years later.) I lived in the dorm my sophomore year, just to get out of the house, and even then I was pretty much isolated since I had two jobs and a heavy course load. When I hit the room, I crashed.

Then I did my junior year abroad and returned with an eye toward hunkering down and finishing. Not much socializing, and I lived in my own apartment anyway. I was practically an adult.

A year after college I met my first wife (for the second time, actually – we knew each other back in high school), and life began in earnest.

What baffles me to this day is why some people – a lot of people, I think – are so attached to their high school years that they never lose touch with the crowd, they attend events, they support the football team, and they still, somehow, relate.

What is up with that?

I mention this because a few weeks ago I started getting emails from Yearbook.com, where I got some material for a blog post last year, inviting me to the 2017 Oakville Senior High Homecoming Weekend. The same woman was handling the invites who had handled the ten-year reunion. It’s like she had assigned herself to be the the ambassador of the Class of ’75 in perpetuity. I remember telling her at the time of that reunion (as I declined to attend), “I don’t know about you, but I was damn glad to get out of high school. It wasn’t the very best of experiences for me …” She was incredulous.

As the days went by, I got updates from Yearbook.com about who had RSVP’d. I didn’t want to unsubscribe from the emails because I thought it would tip someone off that I’d actually been found, but I did check to see who had RSVP’d and it turned out I didn’t know any of them. That only reinforced that I was a total loser in high school and didn’t know anybody of note. Or anybody. (Even if I did play Hawkeye Pierce in our production of M*A*S*H.) And the funny thing is, I didn’t really want to know anybody of note back then, because you’d get associated with certain groups of people when your true identity was something much different. A lot of the people of note were either jocks or drug connoisseurs. I already loved Renaissance lute music, so.

Ultimately the emails stopped coming – I guess because Homecoming Weekend had come and gone. I’m glad I didn’t go. For all of the above reasons but also because I would be unrecognizable to my old classmates and they to me. In fact, I landed on a recent photo of someone I used to know in those days and there was only the faintest hint in there that she was that person. The caption said it was her and I believed it.

My takeaway message is, kids, when you graduate from high school, run as fast as you can as far as you can and never look back. High school is like boot camp. It’s the red-hot coals you have to walk over barefooted to get to the complimentary drinks. Proceed as if life will always get better for you, because if you’ve already experienced the best of it before you’re nineteen, you’ve got yourself a long, dull stretch to trudge through before sweet sweet oblivion.

15 comments on “Shriek, memory

  1. kingmidget
    October 18, 2017

    Our five year reunion was an entire weekend of activities. My friend Jon dragged me to the Saturday afternoon picnic. I spent most of the couple of hours I was there talking to a young woman I knew in high school but didn’t like then and didn’t really care about five years later. I didn’t go to another reunion until the 30th — convinced to go by a former classmate that found me through Facebook. I went, it was horrible — reminded me of all the reasons I hated high school. Absolutely none of the people I would have liked to seen there showed up. Instead it was all the bullies and punks … I mean, the cool kids. All talking about their glory days. I’ll never go back to another reunion. My wife, of course, thinks reunions are great. And she has three different circles of friends — two of them are friends she has known since high school.

    Even worse than this though is one particular family I know. They have one daughter, who graduated from college this year. And from the moment she started high school, her parents have been massive “fans” of all things related to her high school and then her college. They constantly posted on FB about sports results at the high school and then her college. It was as though they were students at those schools. They went up to her college at least once a month while she was a student there (one state up from us) and filled their weekends with college events. And I just don’t get it.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 18, 2017

      I know some parents like that too, and it boggles my mind. I think there’s a certain co-opting of their children’s identity going on with that, or a control thing. I don’t know. But once a kid is out of that school — Mom? Dad? You’re out too!

      Whenever I check out the FB page of someone I know from school, I see that their friends are other high school people I knew. Seriously — get a life!

      • kingmidget
        October 18, 2017

        My kids are 22 and 19. My objective has always been to create a life in which we are independent of each other. I have no need to have their interests shape mine or the other way around.

        After the 30th reunion, I friended on FB a few people who attended. Within a few months, they were all unfriended because I was reminded of why I hadn’t kept in touch with them for the last 30 years.

        By the way, the couple with the daughter retired and moved up to where she went to college.

      • Kevin Brennan
        October 18, 2017

        Jesus … just, Jesus. 😐

      • kingmidget
        October 18, 2017

        And he voted for Trump and he and I got into it about that and we’ll never talk to each other again. 😁

  2. pinklightsabre
    October 18, 2017

    OK well I relate to you on this one, big time. But I don’t know, I agree with your advice but at the same time I wonder at my own distance and disinterest in high school, I feel self-conscious about it almost, like defiant. But like you maybe, I just don’t feel I’d relate to those people. In hindsight, I should have spent more time with the people on the edges because I would have related to them more, probably. I made the mistake of associating with some popular people, and they’re now C-level executives (which is great, I just don’t hang around with executives much). Cool title for the post, by the by. And Renaissance lute music? Were you like into the Incredible String Band? That will keep you predictably solo in the locker rooms, etc.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 18, 2017

      I had a few on-the-edge friends, and they sure made it tolerable. But every time I made an effort to “fit in” it failed miserably and I retreated to my freak farm.

      Not so much ISB, but I did dig Julian Bream big time. And, on the organ, E. Power Biggs!

  3. islandeditions
    October 18, 2017

    As usual, Steely Dan said it best … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgWWliZHjtI

    But my high school experience was totally different and I am still in contact with more than a few of the “kids” I graduated with in 1972 in Toronto. Many are now readers of my books, too, so you’ve gotta love those old connections! (And I’ve milked some of my school experiences for part of a novel I’ve written but not yet published.)

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 18, 2017

      That’s definitely playing the long game for the sake of book sales! Impressive. 😉

  4. Terri Webster Schrandt
    October 19, 2017

    I went to HS with 2500 students in San Diego and enjoyed my years thoroughly, but moved on and north. Through reunions and Facebook, I discovered a lot of friends that live in Sacramento area now. In fact my second husband of 4 years is someone I met as a freshman (we were just friends then) and found each other on facebook. We often get together with those other friends, and yes, some might still be a wee bit into gossip, but I don’t pay much attention. Last night, my hubby and I were just reminiscing about the senior prom (we went with different folks). For us, it is a nice thing to remember, but we’ve moved on to the amazing life we have now.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 19, 2017

      How great that you actually knew your husband “back in the day”! I like that kind of reconnection because you have some shared experience but also lots of things you bring from your lives when you didn’t know each other. Cool!

  5. Ilona Elliott
    October 19, 2017

    I understand Kevin. We had redistricting the year before I went to High School that sent me to a different school than my four older brothers. I hated HS. There were some pretty hard core jocks that used to throw the freaks, my buddies, into dumpsters and the duck pond nearby. It sucked. And I’m still bitter they made attendance at Pep rallies manadatory, as I was never a RA RA type. LOL. I suspect the ones who were are the same ones on those reunion committees. I do have friends that go back long before HS that are still friends and whom I make a point to catch up with when I’m back east, but HS was an endurance test, not a picnic.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 19, 2017

      Def. not a picnic. But I was lucky enough to have a couple of weirdo buddies who lightened the load quite a bit. I just hope I haven’t been dreaming this life, only to wake up in mid-sophomore year. Aaaaiiiieeeee!

      • Ilona Elliott
        October 19, 2017

        I still have bad dreams that I’m stuck in High School. Sucks.

      • Ilona Elliott
        October 20, 2017

        Here’s to the weirdos!

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This entry was posted on October 18, 2017 by in Et alia and tagged , .
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