(Disclaimer: Written in a tipsy haze)
It was my 10-year high school reunion tonight. Movies and TV shows have been made about this rite of passage. But from my 9-piece high school barkada, only 4 of us went. I kept trying to convince the rest to come – after all, this only happens once, how can you miss it? – but the instant I walked through those doors, I realized why some people wanted to sit this one out.
“This is a big blow to our self-esteem,” I told my friend as we stood there by the entrance, gazes upon us.
Everyone looked exactly as they did 10 years ago – I remembered them all, all their faces, though several had changed their nicknames into something cooler. Some had gained weight, while others looked spectacularly thin. Normally, I am comfortable with my own self-image – I have a good job that I also happen to love, I’ve done good for myself, and I don’t think I’m particularly hideous-looking. But what struck me as I stood awkwardly at those doors was the fact that none of those mattered.
The problem was nobody had aged, in my eyes – there was the nice girl, the mean girl, the popular girl, the quiet girl, etc – and they would always remain that to me, no matter how many leaves they’ve turned since I saw them last. That meant that they must have the same 10-year old perceptions of me. Who was I 10 years ago? I was the nerd, the perennial geek who got sent to speech competitions instead of attending school camping trips. I helped found the Film Club that made the 10-year old graduation video they showed tonight – I was also part of the the debate team, the creative writers guild, the church choir, and the math team (though I only competed once, and lost). In the graduation video, there was a shot of me – bad hair, glasses, goofy smile. That’s still me, isn’t it?
For four years, I was part of the honors section – which meant I never really got to know anyone, because we were blocked off from the rest of civilization. So when they did roll call tonight, they called out our section (“4-O” – honors) and I stood up and whooped enthusiastically – only to realize I was cheering alone. (The rest of 4-O were there, mind you, just sitting down and minding their own business, as nerds tend to do.)
“Tara – quizbee na lang tayo (Let’s just have a quizbee)”, joked one of my classmates. “It’s not like we were ever in.”
Once the beer and rum coke started pouring in, I felt much better. I noticed people would ask me either one of two things: “What are you doing now?” and “Are you married?” To the first question, I said I made games – and their eyes would glaze over and they would nod politely. Nobody asked what type of games I made or what my exact job was, and any achievements I may have had (first female game developer in the country? Producer/designer for the best indie developer in South East Asia?) didn’t matter here – it’s high school! For all intents and purposes, I was 16 again, geeky and awkward. (To the second question, I politely said I was single, and they nodded politely back.)
Don’t get me wrong – I had a great time. It was nice to see everyone again, to exchange hugs and photos as if the world hadn’t changed in a decade. We laughed over teachers and memories and each other. But it was a completely different universe from the everyday one that I live in. Most people were married now, or living abroad, or looking and dressing fabulous. Meanwhile, I was still a geek – a successful geek, but still a minority of minorities. And as I watched the video we made 10 years ago, I realized that my geeky friends and I would always stay on the fringe – never in the cool crowd, but quietly living our lives unnoticed. Maybe that’s actually enough. I am thankful every day that I have the life and friends that I do – and while affirmation would have been nice, I think I can live without it.
EDIT: Pictures posted (taken by Mariel Ling). Also, I forgot I was part of the church choir, so I put that in. (I am so going to hell :D)