High School Reunion
There are a few communications one receives in a lifetime that can cause anxiety. This anxiety cannot be properly measured by stress tests at your local hospital because the stress is so personal, man made machines are ill equipped to properly assess the immeasurable levels of panic.
“Honey, we need to talk.”
“It’s the doctor’s office, we have the results of your tests, please make an appointment immediately.”
“You have been randomly selected to receive a free cruise…”
These three phrases will cause shivers down your aging spine which even the most gifted chiropractor will struggle to realign. As devastating as these messages can be, there is an even more catastrophic message one will receive that will shake the inner core of your well-rooted life affirming foundation.
“You are cordially invited to your high school’s 50th anniversary reunion.”
These deceptively friendly words can cause acute uneasiness. Other reactions will include flashbacks, regrets, visits to the psychiatrist and appointments booked with the plastic surgeon to help one prepare for an evening of pure panic. Having just received this very message, I must now face the unenviable task of making a success of myself in less than five months.
Well there are obvious solutions to this little short-term problem. Buying lottery tickets, visiting local casinos and changing my profile on LinkedIn are certainly part of my five-month plan. But then what?
Concocting a perfect mixture of Grecian Formula and Just for Men will be part of the plan. Checking my Gym membership expiry date and getting the treadmill out of the crawl space will also be important steps of preparation. And as I fill my expanding To DO list with encouraging actions, the optimism of potential success comes crashing down.
This loud crash occurs because of one fact of my high school experience that no personal rebranding will solve. As I prepare to give the illusion of unparalleled success with long lost colleagues I face the one unavoidable comparator for that evening’s bragging competition.
Chris Hadfield, yes that Chris Hadfield, attended my high school during those important years of learning. Lets be clear, Chris was certainly learning a lot more than the rest of us. A resume that mentions numerous space shuttle trips, space walks and a home address with out a postal code because it is the international space station, is formidable competition at a high school reunion.
As I anticipate conversations from my non astronaut classmates about what I have been up to, I am struggling with post high school stories that will effectively compete with guy who has two high schools named after him. How do I finesse the story of my receiving a sales award twelve years ago, while Chris is telling the story of orbiting the planet and taking pictures for a best selling book he published.
How do I tell people about a very good idea I had a a staff meeting last month, while Chris is autographing his new CD of songs inspired by years of space travel?
It is not that Mr. Hadfield is not a decent human being. He was in my trigonometry class and offered to tutor me after class to help remove that glazed look that filled my face during every class. Because he was smart and I was the opposite of that word, he patiently tried to explain things. Eventually this patience eroded, as he realized he was dealing with an idiot. This exasperation triggered a very uncharacteristic sarcastic comment, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out!” Literary scholars would call this foreshadowing.
Suddenly it ocurred to me this is my story for the reunion. I am now convinced that after these very frustrating sessions, Chris Hadfield had an epiphany on the bus ride home to Milton one evening. “Maybe I do have to be a rocket scientist to help Dennis!”
Knowing I am the inspiration for Chris Hadfield’s impressive career gives me an overwhelming feeling of calm. Suddenly, ( I appreciate I used the word suddenly in the previous paragraph, but when one is panicking a lot of sudden things just happen) I begin to wonder how many other high school classmates I inspired to be the wonderful people they are today. Now I can’t wait to attend the high school reunion.
Though the reunion had it’s official programs for the five decades of students, a very smart old classmate of mine, Sandi Richardson planned an evening at a local bar where she invited all the non astronauts to drink and reminisce. This brilliant plan allowed a similar vintage of ex-classmates to reminisce about things only those from the 1970s could comprehend. It was a terrific night of reconnections and because of the kindness of old friends, all nostalgia was spiced with nothing but fondness and appreciation of surviving a shared personal past.
All high school memories are improved with age, alcohol and mankind’s ability to reedit their own memory to allow devastating moments to become wonderful life lessons. The 100th anniversary reunion should be a blast.
Cue the Blong: If you are not well past the age of fifty, none of the references in my song will make any sense to you.