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A couple things I learned at my high school reunion

I went to my first high school reunion last weekend. It wasn’t the tenth, 15th, or 20th, the timeline on which such events are normally held. Rather, it was the 17th summer since my class of 1997 headed out of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

Why now? Well, that was my fault. I planned the darn thing.

Class reunions, by traditional American protocols, are supposed to be organized by the president of the class. I wasn’t in student government – nor had I even gone to a single party in high school that wasn’t school-sanctioned or associated with a team, club or class that I happened to be in. I wasn’t an especially popular kid, and often felt like I didn’t fit in.

You could probably best describe my high school self as a very focused student-athlete. I had my share of crushes on boys and problems with other girls and lots of very vague and hopeful plans for the future, but mostly I was running down a road or had my nose in a book. I was comfortable in those spaces. They were easy and attainable and rewarding and didn’t involve a lot of risk. Being social was a lot harder.

So fast forward more than a decade and a half and change, and why was I stressing out big time over Facebook RSVP’s and trying to track down the few people who didn’t seem to have any social media presence whatsoever and cajoling others to ask their friends to ask their sister-in-law if she could make it? I guess because at the end of the day, I liked high school, and just about all of the people who were there with me, even if we didn’t know each other as well as we could have or should have.

I loved going to high school football games and cheering on our team. I loved being on the Yearbook staff and writing up all the cool accomplishments everyone had all year. And I loved graduation, knowing that we all had the rest of our lives to do amazing things, and were just getting started on our very own magical mystery world tours.

Not even half of our class members were able to make it to the event, but I’m glad we had it anyway. It was at a park on a hot summer Saturday, but people brought their kids and a couple kegs of beer and some stayed all the way until the end. There were a lot of laughs and fond memories and even the chance to get to know people that we didn’t really know back then. There was also really good BBQ, thanks to a great guy named Chris Perez.

Here’s a short list of things I learned from the reunion experience. If you’re thinking about planning one or even trying to decide whether or not to attend, maybe they’ll help.

1. It’s OK that you look older – maturity is really attractive.

2. It’s amazing to see the adorable kids of people you knew when they were just kids themselves.

3. Cliques were dumb. And are even dumber now.

4. You never know if you’ll ever get the chance to see these people again. And they’ll probably bring back some memories of times that you haven’t thought about in years.

5. It never hurts to think back to when you were 18, and life was just getting started. What did you dream of? And what could you start doing tomorrow that would help make those dreams come true?

With many thanks to the class of ’97 members and their families who made it out to this summer’s very random event.

20 years running

“When I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody. This is a part of my day I can’t do without.”
Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Yesterday while I was running in Hope Ranch with my friends after work, I was doing some mental mathematics and realized that I have now been running consistently for 20 years.

I started running when I was in junior high school. I had never played a sport ever in my life, was never picked for teams until next to last in Phys. Ed. Running came about because it seemed like it was the only thing I could do that was athletic that didn’t involve jumping, catching, throwing, or bats, balls, water or racquets. Of course, I could have been a swimmer, but that would have involved being in a bathing suit around other kids, and therefore it was simply NOT an option. I can’t tell you how frightened I was to have to go swimming in high school PE. There have been few things in this life that traumatized me more.

My parents were runners, simply for the health benefits of a short run (2 miles max) a few times a week. We lived in a pretty place and they were young and athletic, so why not? They’d both run a couple of miles maybe three days a week. I remember being very impressed with my parents about this. I didn’t know many other kids, but I had a feeling that not too many peoples’ parents were out running.

Of course, I didn’t start to train consistently until my freshman year of high school, when I joined the track team. I would have just turned 15 that March. I remember feeling like such an imposter when I went to that first track team meeting. All these kids had done sports before, and I literally did not know how to act or what to say. That probably meant I didn’t say much. I remember being traumatized by the whole experience, because they wanted the freshmen to try different track and field events to see what we might be good at and want to compete in. I remember my dad picking me up, and telling him that I just wanted to run and maybe I should quit, because these field events were stupid and I wasn’t going to be any good at them. He encouraged me to go back the next day. And it must have gotten better after that, because I never wanted to quit ever again. So thanks Dad. That was good parenting.

It’s a very conservative estimate to say that over my running lifetime I have averaged around 30 miles a week. It’s probably closer to 35. But for the sake of the leaner early years, before I discovered long runs and half-marathons, we’ll say 30 miles a week for 52 weeks a year for 20 years. So that means I have run upwards of 31,000 miles to date. That’s a lot. I figure I can double that before I turn 60. 60,000 miles by 60. Seems like a pretty good goal. Only 40 more years of running to go.