Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My 10 Year High School Class Reunion

Sabetha High Class of 2004 10 Year Reunion
Wow! This was great! I was nervous before getting back to Sabetha because I call these people my friends, some of them I consider rather good friends, yet I hardly talk to them and haven’t seen many in ten years. I quickly learned, or was reminded, you have to live where you are, you can’t dwell in the past. There were several times I asked around about people only to find out, no one really knew what that person was up to. There were several people that no one at the reunion had talked to in several years. Hey! Next time we do this, please come everyone! We want to know what is going on in your life. None of us keep up with each other as much as we would ideally like, that's life. 

This weekend was like a shot of motivation to my heart. (Yes, Pulp Fiction reference.) When I talked to my classmates, their spouses and significant others I was stunned at how well everyone was doing. Taken one classmate at a time it all seems to make sense. I will try to keep this pretty vague because we are a small enough class I don’t want to single anyone out. Time and again it was like: this person, who was and is awesome, is married to that person, who is also awesome, and they have a well behaved kid, plus stable jobs. 

What impressed me the most was the relationship side of things. We took a class picture of most of the people that were there, although a couple showed up later. I looked at my classmates and I thought, ‘wow, what a group of beautiful people!’ The part that you will not see in the picture, was the group of spouses and significant others, that again all seemed to have their lives together. There were only a few of us, maybe three of about 25, that didn’t bring a spouse or significant other. I suppose we are 28 now, but I still didn’t expect that. 

Everyone seemed to be gainfully employed, or was a stay at home parent. We even have a couple of doctors in our class. It really seemed like everyone was doing fairly well in their careers. No job is perfect, but people seemed to be doing quite well. Again, taken one person at a time each individual success did not seem like such a big deal, but put together we have done really well. 

Don’t let me give you the impression it has been all roses. Of the 72 of us, at least two are dead and at least three have been divorced. There have been kids born outside of marriage. Multiple people had lived in four (and maybe more) places after leaving college. My guess is that I was not alone in struggling to find a job that payed in the wake of the Great Recession. As a side note, my van was definitely the worst vehicle in the parking lot. Quite a few people had moved in with their parents after college at least for a little while. I will even dare to say that most of our class spent time living with our parents as an adult. I felt so alone and failed moving in with my parents and being unemployed in 2010, but I think that quite a few of my classmates had similar experiences. Many people have also returned to the area of northeast Kansas because the economy is good and being closer to family is a bonus.

I think that as I talked to my classmates and heard of their stable jobs and marriages and kids maybe it seemed like everyone was so successful because we had been through struggles in the last ten years. Several people had gone to school for one thing, and either changed direction to a less daunting occupation or totally dropped the degree to pursue something else. Student loans came up a few times, and while I am in debt quite a bit, some others are certainly in even more debt. Only one person directly mentioned money being a difficult but important topic in relationships and I think she spoke for most of the class when she bluntly talked about some of the hard times in the last ten years with careers, marriage, and having a kid. 

Land prices came up a few times as people think about getting into farming. The reality is land prices have gone up so much that if you aren’t inheriting land (because you have siblings or your parents still farm) it is awfully hard to get into it. I never really appreciated farming when I was younger, yet the hundreds of hours I spent on my friends farms helped shape me into who I am today. Even to me the concept of having a “hobby farm” sounds like a great experience. 

Getting back to the positives, there were a couple people that I knew did not have the easiest life back in high school and shortly after. Seeing those people, married, with kids, and well behaved kids too, welled my eyes up with tears. If a measure of a parent is the kids, well done classmates! I was astounded, for the number of kids we had there they were all, without exception, well behaved. Plus, my classmates and their spouses seemed like pros when it came to parenting. They could hold a conversation and watch the kid run around, no problem. I look forward to the time in my life when I have kids, but I’ve never changed a diaper. Every time a kid would fall or hit a head or cough I could cringe a little because I don’t know what to do about it, yet my classmates and their spouses reacted like it was no problem and were back in the conversation a minute later.

I had the opportunity to apologize to a couple people for mean things I had done in the past. I have memories that come up every once in awhile and make me feel bad for things I have done. I also thanked a number of people for helping me become who I am. The person we become is in large part based on the people we are surrounded by, and I was surrounded by amazing people growing up. I feel like our class holds itself to a high standard. That means different things to different people, everything from solid parenting to becoming a doctor. 

On Sunday I waited around town until the early afternoon to go to a retirement party for a teacher and coach that had motivated me when I was in middle school. I also happened to see and thank a couple other teachers and coaches at the party. Every time I see my track and cross country coaches, I am so thankful. It took some time, and I didn’t always get the point, but I feel the overall extremely positive experience I had running growing up is why I got back into running less than a year after I quit, and haven’t stopped running in the nine years since. It also taught me about long term progress, which helped get me to Nepal this year. I also saw one of my math teachers, and he gave me an experience I will never forget. My freshman year of high school in geometry class, there were maybe a couple freshman, but mostly sophomores and juniors in the class. One day when he was going to be out for the day, he gave me the lesson and had me teach the class. It went quite well, but going into it I was terrified explaining to these older girls and big football players the volume of water in the tank! It was a leap for me, and an experience I treasure. I had amazing educators growing up!

Over the weekend I had two two-hour conversations with people who were ironically not in my class. Some people, that I would have liked to talk to more, I only said “hi” to. Other people after a few minutes of talking we would get interrupted by someone else and never return to our conversation. I could have easily spent two hours talking with every single person in my class. That being said, I spent a lot of time just listening. I live my life, I already know what I’m doing, I don’t want to hear myself talk about it. I want to know what my classmates are up to. By the way, only two of the six cross country runners in our class showed up. Next time, you all better be there! Even listening to a few other people have conversations, I kept thinking, ‘well done, you guys all have your lives together.’ I feel marriage is probably only second to God when it comes to big life decisions and events, and it seems like most of my class just nailed it. The people they married are fantastic. Seriously, well done friends. 

Other news about Sabetha, Kansas itself, since my family hasn’t lived there in 9.5 years, it seems to be doing really well. Nemaha County was apparently listed as one of the top 10 counties to get a job a few years ago. There are two new manufacturing and engineering companies in town that employ around 200 people. For a town of 2500 people, that’s a big development. South of town quite a few houses have been built and there is at least one new "suburb". It is a little funny how developments there seem to go by one family or occupation. There is a new gym at the high school and a new baseball field. Otherwise most things are the same. The town has a little trouble keeping restaurants and they actually have a bit of a rental apartment shortage. Business is good enough that a friend said to me, “if you can weld in Sabetha and you don’t have a job, it’s because you smoke too much crack.” 

I was so nervous going into this. I haven’t kept up well with my friends. I don’t have a significant other to bring. I have changed. They have changed. We have gone our separate ways and I wasn’t sure what all that would mean. Well, I’m still smiling, sitting here two days later. It was great! I mean, I know we’ve had some tough times, but overall, well done friends! If possible I will make it to all the organized reunions that we have in the future, and I will certainly be going to my college reunions as well. In a class of only 72 graduates, you get to know people. It will never be what it once was. We have all matured. Fewer crude jokes. No putting other people down. There was a lot of positivity, and parenting. These aren't the same people I went to school with, they are better. I will be commenting on Facebook posts in the future, instead of just “liking” them and I look forward to the next time we do this. As an open invitation, if anyone from the Sabetha High class of 2004 is in Dubuque, Iowa in the future and I’m still here let me know, dinner is on me. 

Seventh Grade Basketball! (I'm #4)

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