Thursday, August 14, 2014

The 20 Year High School Reunion Headspin

I get most of my ideas for plays, essays, or blogs from a simple comment or idea.  With my 20 year high school reunion approaching my head was already thinking a million things and then I read a comment about how the people probably haven't changed and that was my launching pad.
(First of all, everything I write here is based on my own experiences and thoughts and reflect nothing of a universal truths of my classmates. )
Who's scared?  Nervous?  Excited?  Freaked out?  Angry?  Resentful?  Working out? Clothes shopping?  I'm sure we all fit into one, a couple, if not all of them.   Why?
Why is this night the pinnacle of how we are judged or by what label we put on ourselves now?  I found myself asking an actress in my show if I should shave, cut my hair, or keep letting my hair grow along with a beard  for my reunion and I froze dead in my tracks.  I put myself in high school, 20 years later, in front of someone who would help me be proud of myself.  I think this is why I'm writing this.  This is my therapy.
With Robin William's suicide this week, I have been evaluating and comforting myself more than usual.    Some of you know, and some don't, that I have been suffering from mild, average, extreme, and 1000% depression since High School.  I've spent years seeking help, dealing with it, succumbing to it, and conquering it.  It's still an issue I deal with every day of my life but not nearly as bad as it was during my teenage years.  The point in stating this is simple:  I don't have any clue who I was in high school.  I didn't understand life, love, death, friendship, work ethic, sexuality, eccentricism, and did I say LIFE?
The 38 year old Jason looks at 18 year old Jason and says "What the fuck were you doing?" Hell, 38 year old Jason looks at 36 year old Jason and says the same thing.
This brings me to High School....... What.  The.  Hell.   Think about the given circumstances.  400 "kids" in our class, pumped up on newly formed hormones, confusion, and excitement.   We were put together and STUCK in that building for 4 years with each other.  We had no escape unless our parents moved away or we dropped out.  So what did we do, we picked anything and everything that made us feel safe and comforted.  Was it a sport?  The drama program?  Art Class?  Band?  Math Club?  Wildcat?  Cheerleading?  Hanging out and smoking?  We found what we could safely live in and we stayed.  We formed cliques because, I don't know, that's the social norm.  I've casted movies and TV shows where we had to find actors who fit the social norm in cliques.  We didn't invent these things, they came way before us.  We spent our days hating other cliques, wanting to be in some, passing judgement on them, or being embraced by them which gave us an identity.  Would these groups define who were for the rest of our lives?  In the minds of 38 year olds looking back at high school, probably Yes.
On this isolated island of High School, we were players in The Hunger Games.  Survive or be killed.  Some of us were bullied and some of us were the bullies.  Some of us got beat up, some of us were the beaters.  Some of us were "Popular" and some of us weren't.  We were stuck with our arch enemies in class.  If someone made fun of me, I couldn't escape, I had 4 more classes with them that day and the next 4 years.  And they were bigger than me, and better looking, and had the girls, and that made me define myself as weak.
Now I'm 38.  If someone was to do that, I'd tell them to go fuck themselves and go to my wife, 2 cats, and insane library of theater books....because that's what defines me now.  I don't believe any of us knew what made us happy or who we really were in High School.  And if you do, you have all of my respect.
The reason I'm actually excited about going to the reunion is because deep down and using common sense, we've all changed.  Good and Bad.  The good stems from the fact that we're adults and most of us have realized life sucks and isn't fair, but we've learned to survive and find what makes us happy.  It's almost like we're all on the same playing field.  Wives, Husbands, Kids, Pets, Etc.  We didn't have those staples in high school.  We were seeking and experimenting and failing more times than succeeding, and that's really ok.  We've lost parents, siblings, children, jobs, and homes.  We've dealt with cancer and divorce and murder.  Cheating, money loss, and war.  In 1994, we didn't have the scars that cover us now.  Human beings fascinate me and why shouldn't I see the people that started this journey of life with me.
I believe something happens in everyone's life that is the game changer.  Some find it very early, some mid way, and some don't at all.  Mine was Sept.11, 2001.  The best part of that day for me living in NYC was the first 4 phone calls I received that day before the towers fell were my friends from high school.  That day stuck with me as the day that we as humans only have each other and the life we have is so precious and short.  Columbine affected me a lot because I don't think that school was much different than ours.  There is not one person in my graduating class I couldn't sit down with and have a conversation with.  What really separates us apart now?
I hear about people hurting in school and being outcasts and being picked on and shooting up schools and 38 year old Jason shakes his head and thinks "Why do we put so much emphasis on high school?"  If we could've gotten some of those kids out of school and to see how much of high school is actually a joke.
I've spent every day since high school being an artist and actor and spend every day studying people, behavior and ideas.  Honestly, I didn't know the first thing about homosexuality in school and now about 60% of the people I hang out with are gay, lesbian, or transgender and I don't even think twice about it.  That doesn't make sense to 18 year old Jason.  It's such a taboo to be different, artsy or dress differently growing up, but honestly, those people have become the core of my friends and I seek them out more than boring, safe people.  18 year old Jason would have been afraid to be judged.  38 year old Jason says "Get a Life".
I'll admit, I was very lucky in school.  The group of guys I was placed in class with became my soul mates.  I admit.  I am in the minority.  These guys became life long friends and groomsmen at my wedding last year.  Do I wish I had talked to every single on of my classmates in school.  YES.  Why didn't I?  Because I was scared and believed I had absolutely nothing to give to heir lives or fun.  On a scale of 1-10, my self esteem was below 0.  I'm sorry if my own demons and depression caused anyone pain or rejection. I didn't ask out girls, who would want to be with me?   I was just trying to survive.  I found my safety in drama, choir, and those friends.  In my latest show Fetish, I describe in detail my journey through puberty and becoming a man.  The show is a complete comedy and I have a blast performing it and the audiences are in hysterics as I perform it.  It's non fiction.  At that time, 1990-1994, I thought I was the only one in the world who was confused by sex, and believed I was the only one masturbating, which made coming to school everyday an enormous embarrassment. It was an enormous relief that most of the things I went through were shared by all the audience members who see it.  I didn't know that then.
 Who of us can't say we're better friends with some people now than in high school because of Facebook?  I enjoy seeing your lives and family and achievements because that's what I do now as a human being, cheer on.  I didn't in high school because my own insecurities destroyed me.
Going back to a High School reunion opens old scars and puts us back in the minds of our confused teenage years.  It mixes our past life with our new life.  Even if we have conquered our insecurities, it reminds us that we had them.  I hope I'm never defined by who I was in High School, because I absolutely have no clue who I was.  I know I was beat up a couple times.  Will I go to my reunion worried that I'll get beat up again?  Will I worry that the girl I had a crush on won't talk to me like I did everyday in school?  I don't care, I'm still going to say hi and catch up and then go home with my hot wife!  If I talk to someone who seems to have no interest in me, that's fine, I'm not going to see them after that night!  I want to laugh with people I laughed with back then.  I want to laugh with people I didn't know back then.  I was made fun of a lot.  Will I worry that I'm going to be made fun?  Sure, bring it on!  My weird things are what make me me!  And I'm ENORMOUSLY HAPPY with who I've become.
Plus....You know 2 of our classmates are going to hook up that night and that's going to be awesome for them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Go Cats.  Class of '94 Rocks!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a class of '94 Wildcat, but as your fraternity brother for the next 4 years, and brother for life, I want you to know that I'm damn proud of the Jason Nettle you are. You've never been afraid to be yourself and I respect that. During this tough Robin Williams week where depression/suicide are a hot topic, I reflect on a couple of friends that weren't able to beat their demons and they're in heaven watching over us now. I just want you to know that I'm damn proud to call you a friend and reading your vulnerable posts are inspiring ... and your Fetish performance was just fucking hilarious. Love you brother. L.B.L.C. Rutti