Monday, June 18, 2012

The High School Experience

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about high school because I've been helping plan our 20th reunion which is in just a few weeks.  After getting used to the shock of how long it had been since I graduated high school, I have been reflecting on what an impactful and mostly positive time it was for me.  High school by nature is wrought with awkward transitions, figuring out who you are and trying to learn some stuff (from a book, teacher or otherwise).  However, it wasn't until high school that I found people who I felt were true friends and with that came a confidence to embrace life as opposed to wait around and be struck by what it dealt out.  Part of it was being in love and in a relationship for the first time too but that has it's own pluses and minuses at such a young age.  All of it together was transformative and it's lessons are still felt to this day.  I guess that's why grudge or glory, high school remains a time in life that many people never quite escape.

I know not everyone's experience is positive but in my case I went to a small rural high school of about 350 kids total and ~90 in my class.  With such a small student body you could do lots of things and cross over various social groups.  Many folks did this.  In my senior year I was Tennis MVP (despite only winning one Varsity match), slung a video camera everywhere I went as lead AV nerd, captain of the basketball cheerleading squad and president of both the photography club and the National Honor Society club.  I don't list this off to impress but to show how possible it was to slide from geek to "perceived" popular stations.  My stepmom had lamented that I should have gone to a larger highschool with more resources (and more students) to get better opportunities but I disagreed.  At a larger school there would have been no way that I could have done all that.  Plus, the experience helped me understand how to motivate different groups of people and in some cases get them to cooperate.  Flash forward 10 years and that was exactly what I did as a Program/Project manager at RealNetworks.

It was with appreciation, fondness and zeal that I agreed to be part of the committee that is planning the reunion.  About seven of us started the process in the fall last year talking about ideas, finding contact information for as many of our classmates as possible, writing & sending out a survey then "save the date", then the official invite.  With 2 of us in Seattle, 3 in Vancouver, 1 in LA and 1 in Texas, coordination has been key.  In the time of the Internet and Facebook, tracking people down made me feel like a cyber detective on a very important mission.  We set up a PayPal account to handle $ transactions, a Facebook page to centralize information and shared documents/spreadsheets and mostly we did this over email, chat and Skype--using tools that weren't even around when we graduated.

The reaction we got to the survey was encouraging.  Over 50% responded and most were enthusiastic about the prospect of the reunion.  Doing a survey was advised by the 1991 reunion committee to make sure that we planned an event folks would want to come to and pay some money for.  We quickly secured an amazing dinner reception venue on a primetime 2012 summer weekend.  It was through one of our committee members that Lucy's Garden (a perfect blend of classy but not over-the-top) became available to us since her family owns it.

In November, I became pregnant and counted out the weeks to my projected due date.  To my dismay, I would be 37 weeks pregnant when the reunion was scheduled.  Sidney was born at 37 weeks so I am desperately hoping it will all work out and I can go, though my OB will see me the Friday before and let me know if it's okay to travel.  Because of this, I volunteered to do more in the planning stages and provide things that could be done remotely from Seattle.  I still need to put the slideshow together but will work on it this week.  (Mostly I've been holding out for more photographs from the grads.)

But by May, when it came time to purchase the tickets, we really had to work to get people to do it.  Despite the advance notice and the perceived enthusiasm from the survey, extra emails and direct appeals had to be sent to get the ball rolling and the process is still happening.  We do have a good number of folks who have committed and bought tickets but we also have a fair number who have not responded to the digital invite at all.  I will be thrilled to see whomever shows up and I know the events will be cool.  Definitely now I am second guessing the decision to have a Friday No-Host Bar Mixer AND a Saturday Dinner Reception.  Did we zap some of the interest from the Saturday main event by offering another gathering?  I also wonder if the advent of Facebook eliminates the inherent curiosity in going to one's reunion to find out what everyone is up to now.  Maybe reunions will become passe' in future since you can still stay connected to classmates long after graduation.  But I remembered some advice I gave to my cousin last year when she was planning her wedding and some folks chose not to attend:  focus on the people who are making the effort to show up and enjoy their company instead of fretting about those who didn't.
I just hope our baby stays put so I can be there.

1 comment:

Patrick Berry said...

Hi Kali, this is Patrick Berry. Don't know if you remember, but I was a year ahead of you at RHS.

In one of those strange congregations of random events, your name has come to my attention twice in the last 2 days. The first was your quote in a WSJ article mentioning housing prices in Seattle, and the second was just a few minutes ago while listening to the latest Radiolab short and hearing you read the credits. It made me think about their great episode about stochasticity!

Just to confirm if you were indeed the same Kali Sakai I did a quick google search which brought me to this blog describing your HS experience, which pretty much confirmed it. Anyway, it's good to hear you're doing well. Take Care.

Patrick