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Appreciating Difference at My Reunion

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 10:35 pm - October 17, 2006.
Filed under: General,Individuation

As I return from my high school reunion and reflect on all that happened this past weekend, I come away with a better picture of many of my classmates and an awareness of the limitations of, for lack of better word, nostalgia.

On Saturday, after lunching at Skyline Chili with some classmates, I decided to go out alone to see the school. In revisiting my old haunts, I might better recall what I had felt as an adolescent, my hopes and well as my fears, the excitement as well as the anxiety.

I experienced none of that.

You see, six years ago (or so), they tore down the building that had served as the Upper School when I was a student and replaced it with a modern monstrosity. They didn’t even spare the entryway which had a certain archetypal significance to many alumni. Instead of recalling my past, I became quite depressed, visiting a place where I had experienced much, but which had no physical resemblance to the high school I had once attended.

As I walked around campus, looking for familiar face, I saw only one, the teacher/coach I had least to wanted to see. I resisted the temptation to tell him off for never congratulating me or even encouraging me even after I had run much better than he had expected in my first Cross Country races in high school.

I hurried away from the school and found a certain comfort in helping my Dad hang pictures in his newly-repainted basement.

That night, at the dinner with my classmates — as at the cocktail reception the previous night — I saw a different side to my one-time peers. We had a small class (67) and with not everyone returning, there were too few of us to separate into our adolescent cliques. As a result, we all talked to one another; I learned that many of those whom I had assumed had just coasted through high school had also difficult times in their teenage years.

It seemed everyone had had some kind of difficulty and some who seemed part of the social mainstream, reported that they, like me, had felt outsiders in high school. In talking to them, I gained a greater appreciation for their difficult situations — even as they differed from my own. Perhaps I understood those who, in our high school days, had seemed so popular because it no longer mattered to me whether or not they liked me. I was no longer trying to impress them. As an adult with such an attitude, I could better see them as they were, as they are.

No longer envying their social success, I saw them as real people. No longer believing that happiness meant being like those with such (apparent) success, I was not afraid to come out to them as gay. Perhaps, I was a bit too forthcoming about my sexuality. I did talk about the blog — but I suffered no adverse reaction for it, not for my sexuality nor for my politics.

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Avoiding “Connection Withdrawal” When Lacking Internet Access

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 7:18 pm - October 17, 2006.
Filed under: Blogging,General

At my high school reunion this past weekend, I learned that a classmate of mine had, like me, experienced the crash of his computer and like me, was forced to go without for several days. He observed that he experienced a kind of “withdrawal” while his computer was in the shop.

I too experienced such withdrawal, a feeling akin to a bout of depression, in the days between my computer crashing and my renting one from the shop repairing this one. And while I felt better when I got a rental, I was not able to use it in my apartment until I finally entered the twenty-first century and had high-speed access installed.

It’s odd how quickly we have become dependent on such technology. For my first five years out of college, I didn’t even have a home computer. For the next five years, when I had a computer, I didn’t have e-mail. And when I finally got e-mail, I did not at first (for three years) have full access to the web.

In that period, I seemed to manage just fine without such ready connections at home to the rest of the world. As did many other Americans. As do people today around the world who still lack Internet access.

And while having easy access to news, information and others who are similarly wired is certainly a boon, I wonder what we have lost by such “virtual” connections. Do we spend less time reading and reflecting than we might once have? Does such ready connection at home discourage us from going out and making real connections in the world?

In those days a few weeks ago, when I did not have a computer — or when I had a computer and lacked internet access — I occasionally experienced feelings akin to bouts of depression. Yet, in the days before I had a computer, I was much better able to deal with this lack of ready, virtual connection. Others have experienced such “difficulties” as well. My high school classmate described this as withdrawal.

Let me hope that I remain aware of what I experienced in those days when I lacked Internet access as a reminder of how dependent I had become on virtual connections. Aware of the changes this medium has wrought, we might do more to find others means of connecting to the world. And to take more time to look within and discover the power — and the beauty — of our own individual passions.

– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)

UPDATE (10-17-06 @ 10:44 PM PST): Just found this via The Corner: “The United States could be rife with Internet addicts as clinically ill as alcoholics, an unprecedented study released suggested.” So, maybe my classmate did go through withdrawal. Well, after reading that article, I realize I better log off!