10 Years In The Woods
“A friend of mine was super smart. He had skipped a couple of years. He went to college and majored in engineering. He had a great job, lovely wife, and kids. A couple of years later he just dropped out of society. Moved to a tiny one-room cabin off the grid. His wife thinks skipping grades in school messed him up. For most of his education, he was 3 years younger than his classmates. Doesn’t sound like much but at that age, it’s a big difference. He was smarter than the older kids and had no common interests. He didn’t know many kids his own age and didn’t have much in common with them either. Everyone expected big things out of him and the pressure finally got to him. He just got in his car after work one day and drove north to the woods. Didn’t tell anyone.
He married well. His wife was 100% supportive. He lived like a hermit for years while she raised and supported him and the kids. A couple of times a year he’d show up for a visit. About 10 years later he just showed up one day with all his things and moved back home. He works on a night crew cleaning movie theaters after hours.
Everyone thought he was going to change the world. He was voted most likely to succeed. I think the expectations from everyone else led him to make decisions based on expectations and not what he wanted. Great guy. Good kids. Amazing wife. We’re so thankful that he married her and she thought it was important to protect him. I’m not sure he would have come out of the woods without her unquestioning support. We had a class party when we turned 50 and he surprised us by showing up. We gave her a standing ovation when she was introduced. No one planned it, but I think we all realized that we had her to thank for saving our friend.
I still can’t believe he’s cleaning theaters at night.”
Our Reunions Are Funerals Now
“Obviously she didn’t make it to the reunion, but one of the sweetest and kindest girls in my class started selling her body. My best friend dated her for years in school. She became a junkie, started turning tricks to pay for it, and was murdered. The saddest part was seeing what it did to her mom and dad, who are just wonderful people and raising her daughter that she never knew. The miscreants who killed her dumped her in a ditch…… eff opiates man. And eff anyone who sells that death sentence.
Come to think of it I don’t think I’ll be attending any other reunions. I’ve been to too many funerals of people I should be having a drink with instead. Our reunions are funerals now, and I’ve only been out of high school 15 years.”
One Year Can Change A Lot
“I went to a small rural high school and didn’t attend any of our ‘official’ reunions, but our town has a 4th of July festival every year that served as an unofficial reunion for those of us who went away to college.
The summer before my first year of college I was hanging out at the festival with some of my friends when I heard a familiar voice call my name. I turned around, and there was ‘Debbie,’ a girl in the class a year ahead of me whom I and my friends had crushed on to varying degrees.
But the person standing before me was no longer that Debbie. High-school Debbie was slim, petite, and pretty, with long dark hair. This person was massively obese, marred by terrible acne and a nose ring that appeared to be infected, and sporting a ragged short haircut that had been dyed an unflattering shade of brown. We conversed briefly and she mentioned that she’d joined the Peace Corps and spent a few months in Kyrgyzstan, but otherwise offered no explanation of her changed look. There was some more small-town chit-chat, and then we went our respective ways.
Maybe half an hour after running into Debbie I ran into my friend Chad, and he (who had crushed on her the hardest) asked if we’d seen her. I said that we just saw her and that she was probably still close by (it was a very small town), but he should know that she looked very different these days. I didn’t elaborate further, as It was kind of depressing to see her the way she was and I didn’t want to come off as mean.
We walked around a little bit more, and sure enough, there was Debbie again. I pointed her out to Chad, who seemed unsure about who I might be pointing towards. But then he SAW.
He saw and made a FACE.
Debbie saw the face and walked away the other direction.
I came back home for the next three summers, but never saw Debbie again at any of the festivals, and even years later after Facebook became a thing and everyone started reconnecting online I never encountered her. I wish I could apologize for that moment. Lord only knows what might have caused such a dramatic change over that one year of her life.”
Running Into A Bully
“Long story short, a guy got expelled for punching me in the face and breaking my nose. It was just a petty squabble between two teenage boys. I think we were no older than 15 when it happens. Stupid kid stuff.
Anyway, I since moved away from that town and hadn’t seen the guy since. Cut to about 4, maybe 5 years after the incident. I’m visiting back home and decide to go out with some of my friends from high school. We’re in the smoking area of a bar when the guy who broke my nose recognizes one of my friends. They start talking without him noticing I’m there. Eventually, he notices me.
There’s a long pause, feels like forever but it’s probably only a second or two. Is he going to hit me? Is he going to be angry? I go with my gut, I’m somewhat of a pacifist so I extend my arms to go in for a hug. He does the same. Somewhat of a beautiful moment. He apologized, we both agreed it was a dumb fight, we were kids, people grow up. He then proceeded to buy drinks for me and my guys the rest of the night.
All in all, for a nights worth of Grey Goose, I’d take another punch to the face.”
A Rollercoaster Of Emotions
“I didn’t learn this ‘at the reunion,’ but this is my saddest post-high school story. There was a girl that I spent basically my entire childhood in love with. We were close but I was always too shy to tell her how I felt about her. As she got older she went through a pretty wild phase and was making decisions that could really mess her life up, and then she got pregnant. She gave birth just a couple days after graduation and just before she turned 18. To make it even harder the baby was born blind. I really thought that was going to be the start to a horrible story, but to her everlasting credit she cleaned up her act, and I can honestly say she became the standard that I judge ‘good moms’ by now. She was really great.
Because of this though she ended up staying in our little podunk western state 8,000 person hometown. I left for the Marines and by coincidence ended up moving to California and then on to Hawaii where she had said she always wanted to live. I kept distantly in touch with her and for quite a while, even into adulthood, nurtured the idea of someday starting a relationship with her once I was secure enough to support a family.
Well, life didn’t really work out that way for various reasons and I ended up married with kids of my own and she ended up in a long-term relationship with the captain of our hometown police department. They had another kid together, though they never got married. I used to invite her and her family to come visit me but she never took me up on the offer.
Then one day in late April a few years back I got the news that she had been killed. She was having relationship problems with her boyfriend the cop and he shot her in the driveway of her best friend’s house before killing himself. I couldn’t believe it. I was fortunate enough that her mom asked me to be a pallbearer for her funeral. I can’t really explain the feeling that gave me, but it was a type of final connection thing, and I am so thankful I at least was able to have that. It’s been a couple of years now, but I still think about her. I miss her terribly still and it breaks my heart.”
The Slap Heard ‘Round The Bar
“Went to my 10-year a while back, flew from NYC back to my little one-horse town in TN. Wasn’t sure if the trip would be worth it, but it was. The reunion was held at a local bar and everything was normal for the first half of the night; caught up with a few old friends, had some drinks, and talked about life. Toward the end of the evening, one of the old class clowns whips his wang out and smacks another guy, who is seated, right in the face with it. Other guy retaliates by chucking his can, and a brawl ensues. Apparently, the class clown had a tremendous drinking/substance problem since high school and no one else seemed that surprised by his actions. Last I saw he had been jailed for crystal after leading the cops on a lengthy chase. Sometimes, the saddest thing is how certain people never change.
Though seeing that wang slap really did make the trip worthwhile.”
Good Luck, Connie
“Just had my 20-year high school reunion. The head cheerleader was overweight and single, the class clown is now a District Attorney, and my buddy who was, at one point in time, getting a medical degree in Xenobiology (the study of alien life, seriously) ended up becoming a very boring patent lawyer. All unexpected, but none of these were the ‘worst’ change I saw.
There was a girl in high school named, well, let’s call her Connie. Connie just kind of had a sultry way about her all the time. She wasn’t playing at anything; she just sort of oozed sensuality. It was like a combination of playful comfortableness with anyone in any situation and come-hither looks that she held a little too long. And she had this hair that was like a giant unmanageable rat’s nest that hung down to the small of her back. I don’t know what it is about hair like that, but I find it irresistible. It’s incredible and luscious and oh so unkempt. It didn’t look like she had given up, but was, rather, more like an armistice had been declared and she and her hair had an uneasy truce resulting in the hair sort of doing its own thing, provided it still looked good.
And here, 20 years later, stood Connie, looking for all the world like she hadn’t aged a day. Same smile, same eyes, same hair. And yet something was different. She was… broken. It was clear that, with the onset of age, Connie had given up on herself. The way she hung on the words of other attendees when they talked about their children; the way Connie asked after the other girls’ husbands… it was sad. Somehow Connie had transformed into Blanche DuBois.
As the night wore on, Connie drank more and more. She started resting her hand on my chest while we talked, and then on another guy’s when he walked over, and then a third… She would lament her absence of a beverage and all of the single guys would volunteer to buy her a drink. The other girls started asking each other to look out for Connie and make sure she got home okay.
It was sad. She had decided – or been told – that her only value was her body. She had given up all hope of ever being happy or having a family. Connie was looking to fill her figurative void literally and was clearly following a well-practiced routine, probably the result of years of bar hopping and one-nighters.
Seeing someone who had once been so vibrant and mysterious laid bare like that; knowing that she still had the magic that she’d had back in high school, but also seeing that she no longer believed in magic at all; and realizing that some people, who deserve to be happy, will never be happy purely because they’ve given up on themselves… That was a horrible thing to witness.
Connie: You’re better than you think you are. Good luck.”
“It Was Me That Changed”
“Honestly, it was me that changed.
High school me was very animated, social and skinny. 15-years-later me was very withdrawn, sad and obese.
It’s so strange. I never fantasized that I’d be the guy that people talked about having ‘really gone downhill.’ I was always such a great student, I was active, I volunteered for things, I made art. A real type-A person…someone you’d want to be around.
But I was the one people whispered about, and it really hurt.
You’d think if someone was going through major depression, they would know, right?
The depression is cyclical. The last one was far and away the worst and the longest, though.
Without drawing this out, the good news is that I’m doing really great now. I’m skinny again. I’m social. I’m out there doing stuff, and I think I can count myself as someone people want to be around. I’m now keenly aware of the warning signs of the beginning of another cycle (for me: lapses in hygiene, cessation of physical activity, avoiding social events). With work, I know what to do to minimize or avoid another, and everyone in my life is on the lookout for those warning signs, as well. It’s kind of scary…having a personality…but exciting scary.
Hopefully, at the 20-year-reunion, the whispers will be different.”
She Doesn’t Take That Stuff Anymore
“A girl I went to school with was always picked on because her parents were poor, her mother worked in a minimum wage job and her dad didn’t work at all. To be honest, I don’t know how people even noticed her enough to bully her as she was always quiet and came in and out of class unnoticed.
At school she always… I hate to say this, took the bullying and never once ever complained, that’s the best way I can describe it. I remember her as always of average looks and intelligence while we were at school and very skinny. Once we left school everybody went their separate ways.
Last year she surfaced on Facebook with a family, and also a degree from Cambridge University, it turns out she had joined the army and went through officer training at Sandhurst and is a captain in the army air corps. She has pictures of her tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The quiet girl who got bullied was a very intelligent tough person, who I suppose we all wanted to be ourselves. It was nice to see.”
The Rich Got “Richer”
“I went to school with a guy from a very wealthy family. As in, his parents once bought two $10 million houses next to one another, just so they could knock them down and build a much larger house across the two blocks.
This guy was more or less the epitome of ‘never has to work a day in his life.’ Average grades in average classes, not particularly into sports, not at all nerdy but not a jock. Just a guy who hung out with all the right people, threw some epic parties, but was not really outstanding in any way other than he was loaded. He was a nice guy most of the time, with no particular inclination to anything and no indication of what would come. If anything, everything about him at school screamed the opposite of what happened. He and I shared a few classes together over an eight-year period, and I saw nothing which would indicate he was destined for anything but a standard rich kid life.
He kind of dropped off the face of the earth after school and rocked up to our 10-year reunion looking completely different. He was taller and much bigger. As in stronger. Built like a brick house, and really fit.
It turns out that he had left high school and earned a degree in strategic studies while training to be an officer in the SAS. He was in the army, in the SAS, for eight years and received some pretty serious decorations before leaving to head back to school and start a business. He now has a few masters degrees in a few different fields – everything from computer science to history.
Nearly ten years on from that and he’s sold the cybersecurity firm he founded post-SAS for tens of millions of dollars and has returned to government service as a senior diplomat and foreign policy adviser. All without touching a cent of his parents’ millions.
I would never have picked it. I’d have assumed his path would be something like a boring commerce/law degree and a career in the family business conglomerate, which he’d eventually take over. Fast cars and loose women.
I mean, there’s still hope for him yet.”
STEM Prodigy Turned Failed Theatre Major
“There was this one guy, legitimate child prodigy/genius type, in a super-competitive STEM program. As in, most of us are in 11th grade doing calculus and he’s about twelve, having skipped a grade or two and then is sitting in on a higher grade just for math class. His parents had a professor from a major university tutoring him after school, pushing him to do math competitions, the whole nine yards. I don’t think he got much of a say in it, it was what they’d been having him do since the age of three or so.
His senior year, he’d had enough. He dropped out of the STEM magnet program and switched to the creative and performing arts magnet program. His physique was very much a computer programmer’s more than a dancer, and he had zero experience with song and dance.
He graduates, goes to a small private West Coast school instead of Harvard/Yale like his parents had planned, majors in musical theatre. After a year or two, that changes to journalism. Takes a leave of absence from school two years in to convert to Mormonism (did I mention his parents were hard-core atheists?). Even though Mormons don’t make converts do mission trips, he did a mission trip. To India. For longer than the usual mission.
The last I’d heard from him, he was married and having lots of LDS kids somewhere on the West Coast. He’s a fantastic guy, but if you’d asked me in 11th grade where I thought he’d end up, it would not have been anywhere close to ‘failed musical theatre major and Mormon missionary.'”
Big Time Businessman
I used to go to a public high school where everyone was poor or middle class, absolutely no rich kids. This is in a province in a third world country, so when I say poor, I mean down and out dirt-poor. I made friends with this older guy who I always see on my walk to school. When I ask him where he lived he would always point up to the mountain. I always thought of it as a joke but when he didn’t show up for class after a really bad storm, rumors spread that his family’s house in the mountains got destroyed. He stopped school after that and I haven’t talked to him since.
He finished high school the next year and applied to a prestigious university in the country. He took a finance course but had to stop a few times because of financial issues. He graduated, 6 years later, with honors nonetheless.
Now, he’s a regional office manager for a bank and he also owns a small travel agency. The scrawny kid from the mountain became a big-time businessman.”