I used to wonder why school reunions made adults so wistful. Why did they keep playing Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko at these things? Why would all the other oldies inevitably scream and enthusiastically make for the dance floor? I couldn’t grasp it. It was incomprehensible to me.
We spend our youth wanting to grow up, and spend our adulthood wanting to be young again. There’s finally enough mileage on the old engine for me to think I get it. Awitin Mo at Isasayaw Ko was to them what I Want It That Way is to us. Obviously cornball and ridiculously outdated, it’s the soundtrack to our youth – and sometimes music, like smell, evokes memories and emotions. It’s not so much being young, it’s feeling young, truly young, the way we used to feel when we didn’t have to pay rent and each day was an empty page to be filled with new and exciting stories, not a mindless slog to the office.
While I wish high school was the way it was in Clueless, the reality was a lot more grim. Thankfully, not Columbine grim – we didn’t fear school shooters as much as we feared mosquitoes that carry dengue – but teenagers always feel everything so keenly. High school for me was not always a fun time. High school is good to rich, attractive teenagers with seemingly effortless cool. It is very rarely kind to bepimpled, skeptical bookworms who don’t understand why always having the same things and going to the bathroom in packs are necessary.
I have always found it easier to befriend people with wills of their own, who have their own interests and aren’t afraid to pursue them. I felt fortunate to find people who – although way less awkward and bepimpled – were in their own way, iconoclasts. I like to think the friends I’ve made are all iconoclastic in their own way. We were all united in our shared respect for each other’s different interests. The main thing I have in common with all of them is a deeply twisted sense of humour, which we use as a crutch because life is absurd and laughter is the only way to get through it.
So our friendship, formed in our very early teens (and for two of us, childhood) and forged in the highly pressurized crucible we call high school, had miraculously survived the inevitable forces of growing up that cause us to drift apart. Things like college, career choices and immigration. Through it all we had stayed in touch and hung out with each other, but never as a whole. It had been almost two decades since our foursome had been complete, so like the first Avengers movie, we decided it was time. Boy am I happy we got together again.
What we don’t always realize is that high school forms the bedrock of our most cherished memories. The cruelty of it all is that we will never really get it back. One can only try to recreate it, which is why high school reunions are always a thing. We only decided to join this year because it was the 20th anniversary, and we all felt it was a milestone worth celebrating (i.e. join while your body still holds up to some extent and you still look relatively good in pictures.)
You can try to recreate a memory, but it will never truly be the same; the only way to get through it is to make new memories. And that, I think, we accomplished in spades.