I’m sitting on a bench at my alma mater Calabasas High School. I’m looking over toward a walkway leading down from the softball field where I lost consciousness after Matt Behrens and I collided with each other on a pop fly. I’m seeing the building where Mr. Shagin would let us eat in 12th-grade Government class as long as it wasn’t tuna or banana (too smelly and squishy, respectively). I’m wishing I could get into the theater building, where I spent most of my free time and found solace from what I recall as otherwise being a miserable four years.
I can’t get in because it’s Sunday, the morning after my 30-year reunion. I’m groggy and in need of coffee before I head back to San Diego, back to 2012, back to the last couple of days of an election cycle that is cruelly, inhumanely, incomprehensibly, irrationally long.
It was a good time to escape into the past, confront the characters who populated my story’s early chapters and reckon with my memories. I’m of two contrasting minds about election campaigns: The journalist in me is fascinated by them; the person in me is nauseated. The latter side was tired of Mitt Romney’s lying, Bob Filner’s bad choices and everything about Carl DeMaio. Ick.
But why would I want to attend an event that was all about bringing back a painful period? One word: Facebook. I hear people complain about Facebook all the time, and, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to criticize. But, on the whole, I love it. One of my classmates launched a page for my high-school class more than a year ago and I got invited to join. Mostly, there was talk about the upcoming reunion—through Facebook, we were able to bypass one of those reunion-planning companies and pull the whole thing together on our own.
But every once in a while, someone would post something that would generate a riveting thread. One thread caught fire when a guy let loose with a sarcastic, bitter rant about how horrible high school was and how awful the kids were to one another, and how he had no need for any of us. I was struck by the thoughtful responses about teen angst, awkwardness, self-esteem and socioeconomic status. Another thread was about how the cheerleaders had to weigh in regularly and what that did to their young psyches.
I’d left all of these people behind. I’d had contact with only a small handful of friends for about eight years after high school, but I had long since drifted away from even them. I went to my reunion because Facebook had thrust these people—some of whom I remember as awful beasts (or perhaps that’s merely how my fragile self saw them)—back into my consciousness, and, wouldn’t you know it, most of them turned about to be human. They appeared decent, mature, real. Of course, only a small percentage was commenting, but I imagine those who weren’t posting are even better-adjusted than those who were. I was too curious about them—and about how they’d interact with me, one of the more awkward and anonymous kids—to avoid going.
Sorry, but there were no epiphanies or catastrophes to report. Mostly a bunch of middle-aged folks getting reacquainted, talking about their kids and their careers, whispering about who’s changed physically and who hasn’t, dancing to memory-laden old music, some probably drinking too much (or maybe that was just me).
Maybe the lesson here is for today’s misfit kids: Most of those hideous creatures that cause you so much suffering—the bullying boys, the self-image-crushing girls—will grow up and turn out to be not so bad. Chances are good that you’ll end up having just as rich a life, if not richer, than they will. And in the cosmic scheme, none of that teenage shit matters, anyway.
Now it’s Tuesday morning, my newspaper’s deadline day and election day for my city, state and country. My old demons have been confronted and reconciled. But, today, questions of mind-boggling importance to our neighborhoods, our country and the world writ large will be decided, and once again, I’m awash in worry and angst.
Is there a Facebook page that will help me deal with that?