Thatís how long itís been since I graduated from high school, and I finally got around to attending a reunion last weekend.
I moved a couple of hours away from home after school and had literally not laid eyes on a single person at that reunion since the day we graduated.
Though I assumed that Iíd recognize my classmates, as my husband and I walked up to an outdoor table of waving people I felt a moment of panic. I didnít recognize a soul.
A lot can change in 30 years. Hair turns gray or falls out. Waistlines expand. Faces wrinkle. You think seeing the signs of everybody aging will be the thing you notice most at a reunion, and it is indeed the thing you notice first. But itís not the big takeaway.
What I learned was this: Whatever version of high school you think you remember is probably wrong.
You have a certain memory of what high school was like, but if you compare notes 30 years later, youíll find you were wrong about a lot of things.
A case in point is a certain stabbing that took place in a certain English class.
Iím taking the Fifth here, but I can tell you a certain girl, known to be quiet and shy and very far from being any kind of troublemaker at all, once had simply had enough from a jerk who delighted in tormenting her day in and day out. So without even thinking about it, she stabbed the guy in the fleshy part of his arm with her ink pen.
Itís not true that the pen is mightier than the sword, by the way; a sword would have done far more damage. The guy wasnít badly hurt. He stood up and complained to the English teacher, but this particular unidentified girl faced no repercussions of any kind. In fact, the stabbee was told in no uncertain terms to sit down, and the stabber got a big smile. (The stabber might have been a bit of an English teacherís pet.)
What the stabber didnít realize for 30 years is how many people looked at the pen-stabbing ó letís just call it a jabbing, OK? That sounds much better ó as an entirely justified and positive thing. ďWe were all on your side,Ē one guy said. Then he described all the ways that karma has worked its magic on the stabbee, er, jabbee, in the last 30 years. Sounds like karma has been particularly brutal to him.
However, it might have been nice for the girl in question to have known back in the day how much support she had. It came as quite the revelation; as far as she can remember nobody ever told the jerk to shut up at the time. If anybody had, it might have mitigated a certain amount of misery.
Why do we tell young people that their high school years are the best years of their lives? Itís all downhill from age 18 on? What a cruel thing to tell people! And, for most of us, a big lie.
High school sucked. College was fantastic. The baby and toddler years were euphoric. And the empty nest stage? It hurts like heck at first, but in short order you stop crying each time you pass your last childís empty bedroom and you start enjoying your freedom. This stage is the best stage ó so far.
You have, hopefully, accomplished many of your goals in life, have enough time and resources to reasonably expect to accomplish a few more of them, and have developed the maturity to let your most outlandish dreams go.
You finally figured out that most people arenít paying any attention to you and donít give a darn what you do or donít do. When you are young, you worry way too much about what people think about you, when they actually are too busy worrying about what people think about them to devote much time to thinking about you. You enjoy life a lot more when you start worrying more about your own business and less about others.
Bad luck aside, the kind of life you have 30 years out of graduation is the life you deserve, a sum of all the major and minor choices youíve made in where to work and live, who to marry, whether to have and how to raise your children, how to spend your leisure time and how to treat other people. That last one is a much bigger deal than you might think when youíre young.
I donít think the other people at the restaurant could have walked by our table and pegged who had been a jock, who had been a beauty, who had been a clown, etc. What we thought we all were 30 years ago has almost nothing to do with who we are now.
Follow Michelle Teheux on Twitter @michelleteheux. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this publication.
Michelle Teheux: Thankfully, no one remembers, cares about high school