Twenty Year Reunion

Can you believe it’s been nearly twenty years since 1996? It is equidistant in time between 1996 and now as it is from now to 2034. 2034! That seems like some crazy-ass futuristic place with flying cars, pills to make us live forever and telepathy chips planted in our brains to communicate with both man and machine. Okay, maybe that is a bit overboard (maybe not?), but 2034…really? 1996 still seems like the recent past. I guess the old adage, “time flies” is true.

In this age of social media, time does seem much more relative since all the people of the past are within keyboard’s reach and you can see pictures and posts of their lives over the last decade and a half, seeing their lives evolve from young adult to full-blown mother or father. But after getting a post on Facebook about our impending 20th reunion, I realized two things: 1) seeing pictures of people and their evolution on social media doesn’t really mean I know them any better now than I did then, and 2) the same is probably true of them and me. It is only that much more true, for me, because with this group of friends, it has actually been 22 years for me. I left after my sophomore year, and was transplanted in another state and high school.

I’ve tried many times to step outside of myself to try to imagine how Cole, the 16 year old, was to my friends and peers. What was this kid like? Yeah, I was a good athlete and student, but how did I come off? It makes me cringe a bit to imagine. Not because I was a jerk, or some bully that was prowling the halls pissing people off. But I think that all I gave most people to know about me was what they imagined or saw. I was an insecure, ultra competitive kid that was deathly afraid that if people actually knew me I’d be like Hugh Grant in “About A Boy”, “blank.” Outside of my few, close friends, I left much of who I was to the imagination of everyone. What’s worse, is it left me to imagine everyone, too.

Over the years I’ve seen many of those old faces and friends, and some of them are people I still consider the best of friends. I think that, with some, I’ve opened up a bit more and revealed more of the person I think I truly am, but more often than not what happens is that I revert to the kid they know me as. It’s what we love about the friends of our youth, this transcendence, but also why I often feel that those who I met in my second high school, and beyond, know me much better than those I grew up with.

So that begs the question, what do my friends from later in life understand about me that those from before don’t? Hmm, that is tough question to answer. Instead of trying to over psychoanalyze myself, I’m just going to go rapid fire, list style on your ass with whatever comes to mind, insecurities, thoughts, fears, whatever:

  • I was insecure about how skinny and pale I was. When you’re young, the superficial shit matters, and from an early age I didn’t like to take off my top to jump in my pool because I didn’t tan well and was bone skinny. Now, I feel fortunate that those things were physically true. Kept me out of the sun more than most, and being skinny seems to have been just a part of my genes, and I haven’t had to fight weight off or anything, like many other struggle with.
  • Sports didn’t matter all that much to me, really. Yeah, I loved sports and there are times I miss them now. But when I stopped playing after high school I didn’t feel this need or desire to keep playing. It wasn’t until a decade later that I felt the itch to try my hand at baseball again. And when I did, after a year or two, I was tired of it. What I really loved about sports was the attention they gave me, that I was too chicken to get with other means, like talking.
  • I was so afraid of girls being disappointed with the person I was, I never took the time to really know any of them. I’m embarrassed to admit this now, but I never even kissed a girl that I grew up with! Through the crushes and childhood “girlfriends” I had, they were never anything more than awkward and barely existent. It all worked out for me, as I’ve got a hot, smart wife now, but I had this big, hard shell around me as a kid. The kissing thing doesn’t matter much to me as the fact that I never even opened myself up enough to have that possible. I let my fear and need to be liked keep me from taking the chance of exposing myself more. Oh, the things kids do.
  • I felt a lot of pressure, from myself, to be the best at things. Obviously. I leaned a lot on the attention I got through sports, school and drawing that I had to be great at them. Anything less, and I would have dug myself deeper in a hole and built that shell out even larger. As exaggerated as this might seem, if you know my family, you know this isn’t totally hard to imagine happening. Not exactly the most extroverted, social clan us Allens.
  • I’m afraid of heights. This is still true, and doesn’t really matter all that much, but whatever. It’s true. I can handle being up high, but I can’t handle being up high on an edge, or in something that isn’t a part of the ground or enclosed. So, maybe it’s more the fear of falling, but just watching a movie with people dangling out of something high makes my hands sweat.

I guess that about covers it. If you have actually read this blog (all one or two of you), then none of this may be that much of a shocker, but that makes them no less true.

If I do make it to the 20th reunion, I hope that I am the me I am now, and don’t revert to the kid that many of them remember years ago. As much as I’d like to know this won’t happen, it’s a very real possibility. And in case you are from my youth, and wondering, I can’t think of a single person that I actually ever had a real issue with. Just petty, competitive stuff that kids have. I hope the same is true of others with me.

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