Back in San Diego my twenty-year high school reunion is starting, I’m on the other side of the world with a long weekend ahead. Xingyiquan in the morning, Taiji in the afternoon, dinner, class, and a mountain to climb tomorrow. And most of this started ten years ago.
I remember being at my last reunion at the house of blues. None of my close friends were there, but most of them were in other grades anyway. Hotsauce is class of ’98, the Ferret is ’96, and then there were the friends I lost along the way. I never was that close to people back then. I didn’t talk, or join clubs. I played football so I would get some exercise, but my life was in books.
Then 2007 came along and I was in a room surrounded by strangers. People I once knew, but when I think back there are more dragons than people. People who had changed, and some who hadn’t. I don’t think I even really talked to anyone. 7-Up was there. I remember her from my oldest memories at Hilltop, but I don’t think I said more than one sentence before I ducked out. I used to have a much bigger problem talking to people, especially beautiful women.
Up till then, my life was a wasteland with a single oasis of a trip to Greece. I still remember that trip, better than the four years I lived in New York, slowly spiraling in depression. I’m pretty sure I just spent that time getting fat and losing my mind. I am lucky my sister decided to move back to San Diego or I probably never would have left.
I left the reunion early, failing to connect with the world, but at least I found perspective. It was never a main driving force, but in the back of my mind there has been a voice reminding me that I want to have something worth talking about at the next reunion. Something interesting to say. To look back on a life that was worth living. I think I have that, but people here are fascinated by America, so I seem more interesting than I would normally. Perspective can be manipulative, making us believe that the world is centered on us because the mountains move on the horizon as we do.
I live this life, so I never find it as fascinating as the people outside of it. If you condense what I do, I live a fascinating life. Places traveled, lying in bed having conversations with three people in three different languages, climbing mountains, teaching, learning, playing, fighting. There isn’t much routine, even when there is a schedule. I never know if I’m going to wind up having a twenty-minute conversation in Mandarin with the street food vendor, or walk into a class as a guest but spend the next hour and a half teaching. I am chaotic as a person, so I find the chaos comforting.
I wish I could have been there, to see them and to see me. I don’t think I would recognize myself from back then, but then I often see myself in the mirror and it takes me a moment to recognize the features. Maybe it would have gone well, but there is always a trap in going back to places you’ve been before. It’s too easy to fall back into being who you were.
Sometimes that’s a good thing, like visiting an old friend, remembering things a bit brighter than they ever were. Sometimes, they are a shitty friend who can’t do anything but bring up old pain and things they would have done differently. The past is where I came from, but I’m glad I don’t live there anymore. I would have really loved to visit though.