June 19, 2012

10-Year High School Reunion

On a day in late May, 2002 I walked across the stage of the Alabama Theater and received my high school diploma from the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA).  ASFA isn't your typical high school by any stretch of the imagination.  I mean, just look at its mission statement:
The mission of the Alabama School of Fine Arts, a diverse community of explorers, is to nurture impassioned students by guiding and inspiring them to discover and fulfill their individual creative abilities in an atmosphere distinguished by the fusion of fact and feeling, risk and reward, art and science, school and society.
Before I go on, I think that it's important that I give you a little background regarding ASFA.  

So here's a quick snapshot of the high school I called home:

You might be surprised to learn that ASFA is a partially residential public school (i.e. that means some students from out of state or the extremities of Alabama live there during the school year) serving grades 7-12 and is authorized and funded by the Alabama Legislature.  Tuition is free for Alabama residents (there is a small tuition fee for out-of-state students, of which ASFA has a few each year).  Much like a college or university, ASFA is divided into six specialty departments, including:

  • Creative Writing;
  • Dance;
  • Mathematics and Science;
  • Music;
  • Theatre; and
  • Visual Arts.

In addition to their specialty courses, all students take core academic classes necessary to earn an Alabama high school diploma.  The school day typically begins at 7:55AM and ends around 4:45PM (or later).  As a Dance major, during performance seasons (which occurred 3-4 times a year) I would regularly have rehearsals until 7:00PM.  Combine rehearsals with the academic expectations of the school and it wasn't uncommon for me to be up past midnight completing all of my assignments.

In many ways ASFA was a lot tougher than your typical high school experience.  The academic classes were more rigorous (especially if you took Advanced Placement classes like me), the specialty departments had high expectations, and the hours were even longer than your typical workday.  But in other - perhaps more important - ways, ASFA was a high school haven.  For instance, the ASFA website states:
Although studios,the school's atmosphere is in no way stiff or severe.  Faculty, staff, and students value freedom from within the bounds of mutually respectful relationships and behavior, subject to rule discussed in the Student Handbook and Residential Life supplement.

In reality, what this little paragraph means is that I went to high school with friends who had rainbow colored hair.  Moreover, a lot of my friends had piercings and wore Gothic makeup.  The term "dress code" didn't really mean much at ASFA...I mean, short of walking into first period with a bikini on, we could all pretty much wear whatever we wanted to.  Outside of these visual qualities, ASFA gave (and still gives) each of its students the space to explore who they are, and who they are going to be, within the safety of its walls.

A performance by the ASFA Dance Department.

It's for all of these reasons and more that for me personally, and I know for many of my high school friends, ASFA was my very own high school utopia...which is more than I can say for many people's high school experience.

Needless to say, I felt very strongly about making it to my 10-year reunion.  Who knows where we'll be ten more years from now?!  I can honestly say that over the past ten years I had only seen ONE PERSON from my graduating class.  I was a little nervous.  As Bo and I drove up to the bar I thought to myself:

"The last time I saw most of these people they were my closest and best friends."

"Is it going to be weird to see them now?"

"Are we the same people, or has ten years changed us so much that we no longer have anything in common?"

"How much power does a shared high school have over college, first jobs, marriage, kids, etc.?"

But, unsurprisingly, I had nothing to worry about.  

Within five minutes everyone was chatting, laughing, and making jokes just like old times! 

Casey, Johanna, and I were close friends during high school.  Now, both Casey and Johanna are mommies, in addition to working in college admissions (Casey) and being a massage therapist (Johanna)!

Sidenote: Case and Johanna are the ONLY TWO PEOPLE from my graduating class of 63 to have children, and even their children are only 2 and less than 1 years old respectively.  I feel like this statistic is much higher at most high school reunions.  I guess that just goes to show you that ASFA graduates' goal-oriented nature dies hard!  I think that children are right around the corner for a number of us, but all of us seemed to wait quite a while before entering that stage of our lives.  

I think we were all pleasantly surprised by the awesome turnout at the reunion!  Personally, I expected around 25 people to show; but in the end it was closer to 35-40...not bad for a class of 63 to begin with!

Not great lighting, but what can you expect from a rooftop bar?!

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think we look 28...

Sanjay, Brian, Johanna, Casey, and I were all very close in high school.  There was never anything romantic between any of us, but we used to stay over an one another's houses over the weekend and talk into the wee hours of the night about our fears of mediocrity and failure (go figure!).  Now we are cardiologists, high-profile bankers, massage therapists, university administrators, parents, and yoga teachers!  It sounds like some sort of made up statistic, but between the five of us we have approximately nine higher education degrees.

If you ask me, that means ASFA did its job, and did it da*n well!

Now either married, or in long-term relationships, our lives will continue to move in opposing directions.  But I'm not sure that really matters, because in the end we will always have a shared history.

Next time - a potato salad recipe perfect for your upcoming July 4th celebration!

Question of the Day:

Did you go to your 10-year high school reunion?!  If so, tell me all about your experience in the "Comments" section below!

Ally and Bo

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