Turn and Face the Strange

The spirit of David Bowie was humming fiercely last Saturday evening as I ambled through the crowds at my high school reunion. The length and breadth of thirty five years evaporated as faces once again became familiar and friendships reconnected. It was a delightful and simultaneously awkward experience, stepping through a crease in time and trying to pick up people’s storylines while having skipped an abundance of their lives’ chapters.
Entering the bustling restaurant / pub / outdoor patio, it had been decades since I had seen virtually any of my former classmates. With the exception of following a few friends’ posts on facebook for the past couple years, I hadn’t laid eyes on these folks since The Love Boat, M*A*S*H, and Fantasy Island were ruling the ratings on network television. 
We had been instructed to look for a set of tables with green and white balloons attached, somewhere near the back of the building. A waitress directed me to a section where she believed several of my classmates had already gathered. As I approached I thought, “good lord, I have no idea who any of those folks are!” But I’m a social butterfly, so I walked in ready to chat it up, even if I would have happened upon a complete group of strangers. 
I was warmly greeted and welcomed, and within moments, familiar faces came into view. Hair styles and wardrobe fashions had changed (thankfully) over the years, but the eyes of my old friends rekindled memories from our past. In many ways, it felt like going home.
Now I’m a praying man, and I had asked a few times in the preceding days to go into the event with a giving spirit. Go to encourage. Go to celebrate. Go to enjoy. I realize this mindset helps me set aside the desire to entertain comparisons. As Teddy Roosevelt said “comparison is the thief of joy” and I’ve found that it is usually accompanied by creeping anxieties. This peace allowed me to genuinely enjoy my reunited classmates, exploring and celebrating their journeys. I was enthralled by how they used their gifts and talents to build beautiful families and fulfilling careers. I was in awe of roads they had travelled; obstacles, discouragement, illnesses and tragedies they had overcome; and challenges they had courageously embarked on. And while I missed being a closer part of their lives over the past few decades, I was grateful for the opportunity to reconnect, and the prospect of perhaps being a closer part of some of their futures.  
So much has changed over the years, and yet foundations were still intact. Introverts were still in many ways thoughtfully quiet, and delightfully engaged. Chatterboxes like myself flitted about, trying to engage in as many conversations as one could pollinate in a short evening. We had each matured through life’s bumps and travails, but emerged stronger and hopefully a bit wiser, refined by the journey. The high school memories of young bodies and vibrant personas had morphed into resilient hearts and toughened characters. 
We had undergone the ch-ch-changes that Bowie crooned about, changed by time, and perhaps able to trace some of its’ meandering, persistent, relentless forward progress. We turned to face the strange, and caught glimpses of ourselves. No longer fakers, but somehow refined, genuine, versions of our celebrated youth.

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One thought on “Turn and Face the Strange

  1. I head back to school today – a reunion of sorts. I will keep your words, “Go to encourage. Go to celebrate. Go to enjoy.” front and center! What a beautiful way to reconnect and start anew.
    p.s. This year was my 40th!

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