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Bill Marcil Jr., Published July 06 2013

From the Publisher: I learned I could go back

I was driving to work and a song on the radio warned, “You can never go back.”

Interesting. Over time, many of us would find an occasion when maybe we would go back and change something we weren’t proud of. As I’ve gotten older, I suppose there are fewer of those times. Maybe it is a part of getting older, more mature. We accept life; we realize life moves quickly, and at times, split-second decisions we made are not the ones we would have made if we’d taken time to think. Over a lifetime, let’s hope we make more right choices.

Last week, I was brought back: my 30th high school reunion. A moment in life unlike any other, a moment that reminded me of some of the worst things and the best. It was wrapped in a big fat bow named 30 years ago.

High school reunions can be interesting. The 10-year was still a slice of steaming insecurity, all the worst parts of high school with barely a decade in between. Still trying to impress, trying to be that person we want to be; 20 years was similar, but with worse hair, and still trying to face down life and win. 30? As I looked around the room, my first thought was: Why didn’t our parents tell us sunscreen would help us look better at our 30-year reunion? It was the early ’80s. I remember sitting in the backyard with baby oil slathered all over my body. It’s a wonder we all didn’t die of skin cancer.

Friday night was the social. I pulled into the parking lot at Fargo’s Gastro Pub. It seemed like a routine trip to a bar. As I walked in, my heart raced. My first instinct was to turn around and go home. “I don’t really need to see these people. Why? What can I gain, they don’t know me, my family, my work, and how will this help me?”

I walked to the back of the bar and there was a group of people I went to high school with 30 years ago. Did they know high school was a time of crazy insecurity for me? Did they know walking into the bar that night, I was feeling the same as I did 30 years ago? I was stepping back in time.

Familiar faces. Familiar hugs. Thirty years had passed. I no longer felt out of place; no longer felt the need to find my place among these people who seemed to have so much figured out. I walked around talking to my classmates, and felt a beautiful sense of ease. No longer were we trying to impress with what we were doing, what we wanted to do. At 30 years, we had all been kicked a few times by the boot of life. The pretension was gone, the fear of trying to impress was gone.

We settled into catching up and comparing pictures of life gone by. Interesting time, the early ’80s. Our music still permeates modern culture. 1981, “Don’t Stop Believing.” My 7-year-old loves that song. Even the fashion can still be found. But, one item that will never come back: the hideous eyewear. REALLY? OMG. The brown plastic frames, almost as large as our faces. Who thought this was attractive? Mom! You are supposed be there to help us. Did they really adorn us with eyewear that made us look like insects?

At dinner, something magical happened. I was back. I was back for a few brief hours. I was back with friends I haven’t heard from in 30 years. Pretension and life got in the way. Saturday night I was back with the joy that only a group of teenagers know. Thirty years ago, we didn’t have jobs, spouses, or the stresses of life that can block adult connections. We talked about all the crazy times when we should have been dead, arrested or suspended. Turns out, even after 30 years, some had been arrested but kept their dirty little secrets.

I came away from that night, and for the first time in three decades, I felt at peace with my high school days. I shared lots of laughs and, as I write this, a tear or two.

Today, life moves at a velocity that, in comparison to then, can be dangerous. If you’re not looking forward far enough, you will be left in the dust.

I thank the Shanley Class of 1983 for a brief moment when I went back in time and made peace with the insecure, sensitive teenager I once was. The song was wrong: You can go back.

Marcil is publisher of The Forum and executive vice president and CEO, Forum Communications Co.