School Spirit

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I didn't love high school.

But I didn't hate it, either. Like most people, I was in the middle of the popularity food chain. But it's been a long time, and I've hardly thought of it since I graduated.

So when the invitation arrived to a high school reunion, I was leaning towards no. Did I really want to revisit proms, pep rallies, algebra and acne? I didn't like it that much the first time -- but I caved in and went.

And I discovered what school spirit is really about.

I arrived, with that who-do-I-sit-with-in-the-cafeteria feeling, and entered, vaguely recognizing faces. But, putting on my reading glasses, I recognized almost everyone -- sitting with people I hadn't seen in 30 years, laughing so hard tears were running down our faces, recalling forged parent tardy excuses and still being bitter about not getting the lead in the play. These middle-aged people who once had the locker next to mine had certainly changed. That quiet girl was now a powerful attorney. That brilliant math whiz was now bearded, wild-eyed and living in a shack in Santa Cruz. The perky cheerleader had six kids and two grandkids.


We caught up on a lifetime. I braced myself each time I asked about someone's parents, and listened to stories of financial ruin or battles with cancer.

And listening, I realized the friends you make in high school will always remain some of the most important relationships you will ever have. High school students do more than sit next to each other in English. Together, they navigate the bipolar drama of teenagehood, and set the grownup groundwork for that far-off life in what we called "the real world."

I felt I hadn't thought of high school for years, but looking around, I realized I hardly go a week without flashing on some experience from those days. The news we shared at the reunion wasn't all good, but the room could barely contain all the joy.

By the time I left at 2 am, still chatting in the parking lot, my arms were sore from hugging so many people. We promised to keep in touch, although returning to our busy routines in "the real world," I'm a little doubtful.

But I'm happy I went. It's taken me 30 years to actually like high school, but I'll never look at my yearbook the same way again.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.