Tuesday, July 19, 2011


     I often hear people refer to their high school years as the best time of their life, saying that they wish they could go back. I, on the other hand, feel differently. You couldn't pay me enough to relive those years. I had braces, acne...you know, the common teenage nightmares.  I was a "theater geek" but within our small family-ish group I felt I belonged. There was no shortage of drama of course, (in every sense of the word) but when I think of that time in my life, theater was what got me through. It made me feel good about myself. On stage, I could be someone else, not the awkward ugly duckling I felt like the rest of the time.

     When my class had its 10 year reunion, I opted not to go. The wounds of real and perceived teasing and degradation were still too fresh. For the money I would spend, I could invite the four or five people I actually wanted to see, to my house for a party. After 20 years, comfortable with my life and family, I decided to go to that years festivities.  I felt much more confident in some ways, but still felt like I was on the outside looking in. Still, I had a good time.

     By the time we got to the 25 years, I was all over it. I know what you are thinking...Why Caren! You can't possibly be old enough to be out of high school that many years!! I know, right?  (Okay, stop laughing.) Anyway, at that reunion I was ready to face the music, even if it was disco.  I had a few things published, I was working on my first novel, and I was happy in my life. I felt good.  I sat with some old friends, and we had fun, but I didn't mingle much. Part of me still thought, they don't want to talk to me, I'm still just the geek to them. I felt my former classmates looking at me almost as if they were thinking "who does she think she is?" Twenty-five years, and I still felt like I had to prove myself.

     This year was 30 years. Ouch. Struggling with my health, and still trying to finish the novel I'd been working on for years, I thought, maybe not this time.   I didn't want to go, feeling unaccomplished and under the weather. Having a disease that comes and goes at will, I tend not to make plans that may require...energy.

     But then, there was facebook. Every time I'd go on I'd see comments regarding the upcoming reunion. I was torn between really wanting to go and feeling even more strongly that I shouldn't. No, I'm not going, I had finally made up my mind...or so I thought. Upon my declaration of decline, I received several adamant protests. "What? You have to go!!" No, really, I don't.  Finally, mere days before the event, my friend Rita told me she had a ticket that her husband would be more than happy to donate (the proverbial arm twist). She even offered to drive.  Seriously, turning that down seemed almost rude. 

     The day of the reunion I agonized over what to wear. I didn't want to look too casual, or like I was trying too hard, I wanted to look nice, not too dressy, blah blah blah! I wondered if I had made the right decision. Was it too late to back out? I called in my fashion guru (Lauren, my 18 year old daughter) and she helped me find just the right thing. Rita picked me up and we arrived early. I felt strange at first considering there was no plan for me to be there. I had no name tag, there were no pictures of me (that was a plus actually, haha) and honestly I didn't see that many people I recognized. 
    As the evening progressed I became much more comfortable. I looked around at the people who once were cheerleaders, football players, class clowns, popular kids, brains and theater geeks. Now they were parents, professionals, business owners, writers, dreamers, but mostly...friends. We joked about needing reading glasses, and how we just couldn't seem to party like we used to. Some of my classmates who had seen my posts on facebook asked how the writing was going. I thought, wow, these people have changed, but really, I think that I'm the one who's changed. I finally see myself as someone worth knowing. I may not be JK Rowling (yet) but I will get published. I will. The great thing is I already have readers, people that I grew up with, and  went to high school with, who will see my book in a store and say "Hey, I know her," and be at least a little proud of that.

And that, was worth going for.

Caren E. Salas