June 13, 2015

I Missed My 25th High School Reunion That Never Was

This week, twenty-five years ago, I graduated from high school.

Technically speaking, I’m now old.

I have no hair, I’m a size 34 waist (ok, probably 35 on Saturday nights) when I should be a 32, and the 12-, 10-, and 8-year olds parading around our home, masquerading as ‘children’ and causing irreparable havoc, occupy 134% of my free time.

As I turn 44 years old myself next weekend (hint hint, family), I consider myself at “Peak Dan”. I reckon I’ll live to the age of 88, so from here on in, there’s no going back. I’m old, and I’m getting older by the minute. As far as I understand 1st century engineering, the sands of the hour-glass don’t possess an off button.

Having been born in 1971, I’m smack in the middle of the GenX cohort age bracket. Translation? I’m halfway between contempt for all that the Baby Boomer’s have achieved (and partially screwed up) and all that is made of the Millennials via their mainstream-media depicted “saviour of the Western world” taxonomy.

I’ve become the middle child. I’m not used to this at all.

Even though I’ve been tattooed by author Douglas Coupland as a member of the GenX cohort, born between 1965 and 1981, I’ve grown somewhat weary of those in my age bracket, accurately depicted by their pessimistic, itching to outdo yet often skeptical behavior in films such as Reality Bites, Singles or Fight Club. The brooding, nihilistic and jaded attitude of many GenX’ers (but certainly not all) has become a bit too much for my liking. I think I’m ready for a brand change, but not like the disaster that was New Coke.

Because I am one of them — those cantankerous GenXer’s — it’s going to take a lot more mindfulness and meditating to undo my own DNA. (In fact, I may have to steal my son’s singing bowl.)

Part of my interest these days lies squarely with a Millennial’s disposition. This is the cohort of Earth’s citizens born between 1981 and 2000. My brother, Adam, is a Millennial, born 14 years after me to the same parents. Through his teens and early 20s, I didn’t understand why his attitude was so “half full” when he encountered life’s unpredictable yet certain potholes and storm clouds.

I’ve grown to appreciate my brother’s rather easy going attitude, and have become rather envious as he inches into his 30s and I into my mid-40s. Adam turns 30 on June 21! In hindsight, I feel as though I’ve missed out on a decade of happier times when I was in my 20s. My natural temperament was to judge and find fault and compete, arguably any GenXer’s chromosome deficiency. Adam has always been one that naturally produces smiles and understanding in both the darkest and lightest of times. He has often battled the bumps of life in the company of others, asking for assistance whenever needed. I think I’ve come a long way, but Uncle Adam and his Millennial DNA is far wiser than I was in my 20s.

Of course Denise and I are raising “goats”, too. The homemade herding is providing me with another anthropological inquiry. The “kids” are classified as Generation Z by some, born between 2001 and 2015. So far, whilst they are certainly tech savvy, they’re also exhibiting far more collaborative and sharing-like behaviours than I ever remember exhibiting during the 1980’s. Their competitive streak seems to be higher than their “blue ribbon” Millennial counterparts, but on the surface it might be that they’re a generational mash-up of Baby Boomers and Millennials. Mind you, I think it’s only the good bits.

Saltfleet High School, before it was demolished.

It brings me to a moment of recollection and reflection.

As I mentioned, twenty-five years ago, I graduated from high school.

Where the Hell is the reunion?

It’s a big deal, isn’t it? Maybe they didn’t invite me.

Between 1985 and 1990 I attended Saltfleet High School in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Back then, high school in Canada’s most populated province occurred between grades 9 and 13. The other provinces thought we were just a wee bit slow, what with their own high school tenure concluding at grade 12 and ours at grade 13. I think it just allowed some of us the opportunity to have a beer at lunch, once we turned nineteen and became of ‘legal’ age to drink. There were a few liquid lunches, I was told, on occasion in 1990.

Never me though. Never!

dairyLike any high school experience for any teenager anywhere, there were millions of fond and not-so-fond experiences to remember. There was the epic outdoor “air band” concert, first kisses at “The Dairy“, competitive euchre tournaments on spares, and practical jokes on Mr. Cann. (His first name was John, so ‘them was easy pickings.’) The cafeteria “beaver ladies” somehow mastered the art of serving extra fatty french fries and 550 calorie chocolate chip cookies, while the regal, English-bred vice-principal had to put up with my morning “radio show“. That’s right, yours truly was ‘in charge’ of the morning announcements. It came with my post as student council president. (How they let ‘me’ be president is still a mystery.)

I attended our goats’ school closing ceremonies this week. Thankfully they have been ‘promoted’ to grades seven, five and three respectively so I can put away the caning manual.

But the pomp and circumstance really got me thinking.

Why didn’t anyone organize a 25th anniversary reunion for our high school graduation year? Was it because we’re GenX’ers, brooding over life’s miseries? Was it because they bulldozed the school a few years after we graduated — apparently there is no such thing as ‘heritage status’ for 75+ year-old buildings in Stoney Creek — building a new one kilometers away? Was it because “Reality Bites“?

Were the five years of high school a forgettable experientia?

Nonetheless, twenty-five years later, I feel nostalgic and somewhat culpable. After all, I am Canadian.

There were many moments of love, happiness and learning during high school. In retrospect, that half decade was a wonderful experience. Firsts rained down like water does during a North Vancouver January. The nostalgia of high school ebbs and flows, perhaps more so now that I approach the back half of “Peak Dan“. I’m now officially closer to death than birth. Introspection indeed breeds lucent visions of yesteryear.

In 1990, I left my hometown of Stoney Creek for Montreal. A higher education degree beckoned, and I was on the hunt to marry Mitsou. By 1995 I was married (not to Mitsou) and living in the City of Glass, Vancouver. By 2011, with three goats grazing heavily and a return to ‘small town’ circling our marital headspace, the quaint hamlet of Victoria called.

When I departed for Montreal, however, I never returned to Stoney Creek. My parents moved to Ancaster — a town some 30 kilometres away — and then divorced. I never lived with them again, remaining in Montreal for summer breaks and then immediately moving West after marrying. In essence, I divorced Stoney Creek as well during the process.What a GenX kinda thing to do.

In that divorce came, perhaps, an unreasonable separation from my high school, and my hometown, and my memories.

Hence, in a moment of reflection, I feel partially responsible (culpable, indeed) for not organizing a 25th high school reunion. Sure, there’s an “Old Saltfleet High School” Facebook group, but no one from “Class of 1990” is on there, let alone chatting up a reunion party. I don’t know Darryl Buckle, but he’s like a 24-hour DJ on that site. I certainly haven’t posted anything. Speaking of Facebook, I’m only connected with a half-dozen or so people from my actual graduation year. With over 200 graduates, that seems odd to me as well.

saracenAm I being too much of a GenXer? Probably.

Can I learn from Gen Z and the Millennials? I would think so. They probably would have held a 25th reunion party. (Editors Note: ask one of your children to organize a 30th)

I’m sorry there isn’t going to be a 25th high school anniversary for Saltfleet graduates of 1990 (or 1989 or 1991, etc.) If you’re a Saracen, from whatever era, it would be great to hear from you.

Maybe one day we’ll have some sort of reunion party and reminisce about bush parties, Taco Bell lunch competitions, Mr. Baxter’s tongue (and wandering eye), “the strap”, miner niner day, typewriting, yearbook club and those legendary MC Mike DJ’d dances.

Maybe it’s a step closer to becoming less like a GenXer.

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