‘In your 20’s you care deeply what people think about you.
In your 40’s you stop caring what they think.
In your 60’s you realize they weren’t thinking about you in the first place.’
Paul Orfalea, Founder of Kinkos
‘Is this shirt too much of a statement?’ I asked my wife.
‘I don’t want everyone to think that – No I can’t wear this one…. The collar sticks out. It looks like I’m trying too hard.’
I stood in front of the mirror, dressing and undressing until I found the right combination of pants, shirt and jacket.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I cared.
I thought I got rid of that disease years ago, when I sold my M6 BMW, crammed everything I owned into one bag and jetted off to Italy.
I didn’t want to feel the need to wear on my Hérmes watch, a status symbol I had bought in Macau as a present to myself after an epic session.
I wore it anyway.
‘I don’t really care about seeing everyone,’ was the line I heard the most that night. Attempting to play nonchalant was a defensive tactic of the fragile person we once were, who’s rightly scared to face the reality that we may be the same person we were 10 years ago.
‘Oh my God: Alec Torelli!’ she said, her vocal tonality and level of excitement couldn’t possibly have matched how she actually felt.
I turned to see Kelsey, a short, bubbly girl who I didn’t know much about beyond her name. We hadn’t seen each other for 10 years, and hardly spoke a word in the 4 before that.
‘What was the most interesting experience you’ve had since high school?’ she asked openly. It was refreshing that she didn’t immediately profile me with a job description, like a boss in an interview.
‘I’ll have to get back to you on that.’ I said. We exchanged a few pleasantries before I scurried off.
I made my laps around the small outdoor patio, opening conversations with some, avoiding them with others.
I caught up with Amy, a bouncy, full throttle woman who moved to Boulder to practice yoga. Immediately my mind goes back to the first memory I have with her – playing truth or dare at a 7th grade party, her kissing me. I wiped the red lipstick profusely off my face before my parents arrived to pick me up.
I bumped into Stacie, and even though she was doing something far more interesting now, she was still the girl who hooked everyone up with free ice cream at ColdStone. She drove me around once in her white Jetta the same week she got her license (for the first 6 months one isn’t allowed to have any passengers in their car) and we blasted AFI while driving up and down the Newport Coast, our biggest worry was finding the best place to eat a burger.
I talked to Marcus who became a school teacher. I couldn’t see him as anything else.
It was good to see people doing what they were meant to do, offering their gifts to the world. Too many were still looking.
I ran into Mike who sang with me in Lés Miserables ten years ago. Both of us admitted we hadn’t sung since then, yet still wish we had. Only the young and the old make time for the things that matter.
I saw a group of jocks from high school. The only thing that seemed to have changed was the quantity of beer they could consume. I felt relieved that I didn’t need to get wasted to enjoy other’s company.
It’s cool to binge in high school; acceptable in college and pathetic once you’re out. What seemed most painful about watching them was that they had done little with their most precious asset; their time.
Whereas being forced to be a part of the same group in high school binds everyone together, as adults the river of time carries us in the direction of our choices.
I checked my watch. ‘3:00 pm?’ I hadn’t bothered to change the time since Macau. Nobody wears a watch to tell time anyway.
I pulled out my iPhone and saw it was 11:00 pm – the party was winding down. I made my rounds, said my goodbyes.
Kelsey shows up again. The only thing to do was talk.
She jumped right in, chirpy like a bird.
I learnt that she had 3 children, her first at 20. Together with her husband, they had moved to Virginia, had a child and bought their first home all before she turned 21.
‘I wasn’t allowed to drink at my wedding,’ she laughed.
One of the many laws that aren’t rooted in logic.
‘I can’t believe you have a 7-year-old kid! He’s going to be out of the house by our 20 year reunion.’
And for the first time that night I felt challenged. Where was I going to be?
My favorite experience since high school became so clear I was ashamed I didn’t see it sooner. There was only one answer.
‘Marrying my wife,’ I told her.
Marriage is a symbol of one’s evolution. Isn’t that the plagued reason we all come to reunions, to show others that the past 10 years weren’t merely an extension of the previous four, but something more?
It appeared to me that Kelsey had a lot more than everyone. If evolution is the measure of one’s success, I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony that this humble woman was the most successful person there.
The last 10 years have just passed. Oh, how it all seemed like yesterday.
Now it’s time for the next 10. What will we make of it?