Last night, I attended a reunion of sorts. It was a get together of people I had once marched with in a drum and bugle corps. Being sixteen years since I had seen everyone, I was very anxious about the entire experience to the point where I almost didn’t go.
Sixteen years is a long time. Many things have happened in my life that have shaped who I am today. What could I possibly still have in common with these people? I wasn’t interested in subjecting myself to a night of awkward surface conversation. Realizing that it was my own insecurities that were coming forward rather than any real doubts about what the night would bring, I changed out of my yoga pants and long-sleeved t-shirt and got myself ready.
Pulling into the parking lot of the restaurant with butterflies in my stomach, I was relieved when I pulled up beside two old friends. It seemed everything was going to be alright after all. We settled into the table, greeting the friends that were already there. They were genuine greetings but ones that hung in the air of choked emotion. It seemed we all needed to order a drink.
I was struck by the vast change in physical appearance in some people contrasted with no change whatsoever in others. Many of the men, I wouldn’t have recognized if I had run into them on the street but many of the women struck me as looking the same as their teenaged selves. As I observed the conversations though, familiar personalities emerged and suddenly I found myself in a room where I truly recognized everybody.
How does one start conversation with someone after sixteen years? You can’t simply say: “So what’s new with you?” Ummm…well, since the age of sixteen I’ve done quite a few new things. At the same time, how can you get into any real conversation without asking about a few things from the past? The initially disjointed conversations settled into a social rhythm with the aid of one thing. Mobile phones.
It seemed that the new common denominator for discovering some commonalities among us was a technology that barely existed (and which none of us had) in the early 90’s. As things began to settle and conversation became a little more normal, I was struggling to pay attention as past memories swept through me.
I spent many nights out with these friends in my teenage years. Many nights out for dinners and many nights at various people’s houses. We never really got into any trouble but there was always guaranteed to be adventure in some form with this group. Perhaps it was because we spent so many hours on buses travelling to parades and shows but we were masters of creating our own fun with very few resources. The smallest incident had us in stitches and laughter was always present on these occasions.
As this evening progressed, that same theme emerged as we relaxed and took comfort in taking the piss out of eachother and let more of our true personalities come out. By the end of the night, my face hurt from laughing and I began to remember why I had so many fond memories of my few years in drum corps. I also realized that none of us had truly changed. Sure, we are shaped by our experiences but the essence of who we are remains the same.
We said our goodbyes and left with promises of “doing this again” and “staying in touch” and “hanging out more”. I left the night a little disappointed it had come to an end but for once, truly hopeful that something like this happens again in the near future.