A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to travel back in time. No, I didn’t go with Doc to save Marty’s parents, but rather I ventured to my hometown of Salina, KS. Anytime I go home, I find that they’re just a bit behind the times as I have, on occasion, seen people walking the streets with yellow Sony Walkmans, jamming to what I can only imagine is a mix-tape featuring Milli Vanilli and Kenny G.
What’s that iGeneration? What’s a Walkman? It was like an iPod but it played cassettes.
What’s a cassette? It was this thing that had magnetic tape… I don’t have time to explain. Get back to YOLO-ing or whatever it is you kids do these days.
Anyways, Salina. I also never miss an opportunity to point out that Salina may be the only town in America that doesn’t have a Starbucks. I think I just heard a soccer mom scream reading that.
I traveled back in time because I had the opportunity to go to my 10-year high school reunion. What an experience…
As soon as I walked in Stiefel Theatre, I noticed the stark division between the different groups and it felt like not much had changed since I roamed the halls of Salina Central. We were gathered in our familiar cliques and some of us found our way outside to mingle. (What?! My classmates are old enough to smoke? Since when?)
The finger food provided seemed untouched as I think some of us were self-conscious about our weight gain since we were 17. I experienced many an awkward side hug, handshake and lingering hug with people whom I knew to the extent you know a speed dater. I toted Scott around as my prize bull and he did his best to pretend the evening wasn’t completely weird for him.
I think I could have talked once, recorded it, and put it on a loop since I think I had the exact same conversation over and over again. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the conversation didn’t go deep or people weren’t sharing their biggest struggles or hopes for the future. We perused around the small room for a couple of hours before heading home as my borrowed shoes were hurting my feet (looks like it wasn’t worth trying to “impress” people who remember me for a Barbie inspired senior photo shoot).
I felt like not much had changed in me since every time I go home I end up devolving into my high school self anyways. Looking back and seeing the two groups divided that night (or people that I ran into at the River Festival that chose not to go to any of our reunion events) made me realize that I allowed myself to be the same. I didn’t go out and be friendlier to those who perhaps felt like outcasts. I stayed in a bubble.
Maybe we’re all not so different from our high school versions (this is where some people thank the power of the knife and their doctor.) But honestly, what a scary thought if we haven’t matured, learned, and changed from our 17 year old selves. I have to believe I am though. I pray I am. I know Christ has changed me from the inside, but somehow I still find comfort in my old self. Isn’t that true for so many of us?
This is why it seems hard to break the chains of bad habits, bad relationships, and bad choices. Stepping out and showing a change seems scary. What if we aren’t liked? People’s expectations of us can carry a lot of weight. We sometimes grow insecure in showing people who we have become. I know I see it in my students when they get back from camp, mission trips, or conferences and suddenly don’t want to tell their friends they’ve changed. My reunion taught me that we’re all in the same boat. We resort to what is comfortable, and a lot of us just aren’t comfortable with ourselves.
All in all, the reunion wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. Mainly because I had no time there—an 8 hour drive to and from for only a 24 hour stay made it complicated. I regret I didn’t talk to more people and especially to those who may have felt out of place. I didn’t give them a chance. To my class, maybe another 10 years will refine me better because it’s obvious I still need to be chiseled away at. Maybe in 2022, I’ll finally have a better idea of who I am and I’ll be more comfortable with who I’ve become.