Why Did I Have To Write The San Juan Island Stories?

Fatty Patty coverWhy did I have to write “Fatty Patty”?

I did not attend my five-year high school reunion. I had just graduated magna cum laude from Lewis & Clark College and was finishing up a year of Literacy*AmeriCorps, starting a job at the Fort Vancouver Regional Library, and interviewing for the JET Programme to teach English in Japan.

And yet, I was ashamed.

I was ashamed of what I hadn’t accomplished and the success I hadn’t achieved.

High school is such a constant pressure cooker. A teacher’s whim during grading determines your entire future; who you talk to outside the cafeteria determines your social rank; your worst mistake bolts you to an identity that is practically impossible to break out of . . .

. . . until graduation, when suddenly the walls crumble, the social sphere expands to take in the entire 6 billion of all humanity, and your future is whatever you make it at that moment.

And then after five years, for one single afternoon or evening you voluntarily walk back into the pressure cooker just to see how everyone “turned out.”

I saw these in Cambodia -- then I worked at Blockbuster Video
I saw these in Cambodia — then I worked at Blockbuster Video (CC-BY 2.0 Wendy Clark – let me know if you use this pic because I’m proud of having taken it.)

I struggled hard to get a job after college. Teaching English-as-a-Second-Language was fulfilling but nobody needs a college degree to volunteer a year in the “domestic Peace Corps.” When my five-year reunion rolled around, I did not have an impressive corporate job, a sleek new car, or shiny whitened teeth. I had nothing to prove I was different, that I had “made it” in the real world. My ten-year reunion was almost the same. Watching Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion was not hilarious. That movie outright terrified me.

Yet what if I had had an impressive corporate job, a sleek new car, and shiny whitened teeth? What if I had fulfilled my classmates’ every desire? What if I had flaunted my outward success?

What if no one even noticed I had changed?

In Pepper, I got the chance to explore those “what ifs.”

And I got to do it against the enchanting backdrop of the San Juan Islands.

So, how about you? Did you go to your high school reunion? Why or why not?