Please take What if this had all happened in my day? Part Three: March 1989-Tenth Grade
Full disclosure-thus far, this series has been pretty fun to write. I appreciate all the feedback and “likes” below and of course, hope that this finds you and yours doing well, happy and healthy in these challenging times we all find ourselves experiencing.
Going through my old journals and yearbooks and other assorted nostalgia has been pretty engaging and in its own way, this series has helped me get back on track with my novel writing, so that’s a bonus. Book four, the final book in the Avery & Angela series will be available later this year!
If you’re just joining us, here’s what we’re doing: For the purposes of this series, I’m going to examine my journals and albums and memory banks beginning on the first of March of the specific year in question. I will begin the examination as though it ran parallel in time to what our experience has been, so “stay at home” begins on March 13 and assumes that the remainder of the school year is cancelled. For each year, I’ll give a summary of what was happening in my life and then I’ll discuss what might have been different had this pandemic happened then. I will also look into the months to come and summer and postulate a bit.
Click here to catch up on PART ONE-1987 and PART TWO-1988!
Tenth Grade: March, 1989
By the time we got to March 1, 1989, for the most part, I’d had a pretty successful sophomore year. With the exception of Geometry, my grades were good. I’d had my first lead role of my high school career in the Fall with LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL playing the feisty W.O. Gant and was about to open ANYTHING GOES as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, another lead role. Swim season was over and while there was some drama with my coach at the end of the season, I’d earned a second varsity letter. Doing both swimming and the musical had been difficult and I was drained. With the show running March 9-11, I was really looking forward to a break.
It would not be much of a break though, since I, and the rest of the HHS music program were headed to England on March 20. I was really looking forward to this trip.
The young lady I’d been dating broke up with me just after Valentine’s Day, but we’d ended things amicably and remained friends. In retrospect, I’m actually really impressed with the way we worked through the ending of that relationship. We remain friends to this day and I’m very glad for that. It’s often fun, these things we learn when we revisit the past.
My first journal entry for March is from the 6th which starts out saying: “I feel now that I really don’t want to have another serious relationship for a while,” before, a mere two lines later I wrote: “I asked, ______________ out on a date last week. She said yes, but for another weekend since we were both busy this weekend.” The young lady in question was also going on the trip to England and I know I was looking forward to the chance to get to know her better on that trip. I was also looking forward to meeting my English cousins in person for the very first time.
My sister was in her third year in college. My father was still teaching in the East Brunswick School District. My mother had started a new position as director of the EW Senior Citizens Center.
I was fifteen years old.
So, if the world had shut down on March 13, 1987, how would my life have changed?
Well, the musical would have still happened. That’s a good thing because ANYTHING GOES was a ton of fun and sold out at least one night. That final performance on Saturday the 11th might have been everyone’s last “thing we all did” before going into lockdown mode. It would have been somewhat heartening to have that as a last hurrah. It was probably the high point of my performance career at HHS, for reasons that will become more clear when we get to parts 4 and 5.
The trip to England would have been cancelled. This would have been sad for all of us for a variety of reasons: we’d prepared all year and fund-raised all year and it was a once every four years trip at HHS. Outside of that, I believe that trip not happening would have had a significant impact on my life in several areas.
I made a number of new friends on the trip and grew closer to older friends. I really thrived in the independence that we had in England. I’ve filled one entire journal book with thoughts from that trip and re-reading that has been illuminating.
I would not have had the chance to meet my English relatives, which was among the highlights of that trip for me. We are still in touch and I treasure the time we’ve spent together over the years. My children got to meet them last year, which made me extremely happy. I’d like to think that we’d have maintained contact without that trip; my late mother really spearheaded that connection initially and I took over on my own as an adult. We’ve been to visit them several times in the years since and they remain among my favorite people.
I attended Easter Sunday services at York Minster and received communion from the Archbishop. As an Episcopalian, that was pretty awesome. I visited the South African embassy and took part in an Amnesty International protest of Apartheid. Throughout the trip, we danced and sang and did all the other things that teenagers abroad for the first time do. We got fish and chips in newspaper and strolled the unfamiliar streets as though we knew where we were going. It was a blast.
Perhaps most significantly, the trip gave me the opportunity to spend more time with the young lady I’d asked out in early March. We got to know one another better and began dating about five days into the trip. That relationship would continue for over a year. When we returned to the states, we had another three months together at school before she graduated. There was prom, of course, for which I got my very first “during school” job, since my mom said, “If you’re going, you’re paying your own way.” There was graduation, the summer, and we stayed together after she left for college and remained together through the next summer. There were innumerable fun, exciting, and transformative times together and with our friends during that time which I really treasure in my memory. I learned a lot and we shared a lot. She got to know my parents and I got to know her family as well. It was the relationship that pretty much defined the next year and a half of my life and in many ways, had an impact on shaping the person I would grow into in the future.
I also probably would not have decided to run for Junior Class President. I decided late in the spring to run and I actually won.
What about the Summer?
So, if everything stopped on March 13, the transformative experience that was my trip to England would not have occurred. The new friends that I’d hade in that time I might never have connected with. As for the friends I had, I think we’d have stayed friends. I imagine my phone bill would have been ridiculous. Many of my close friends were getting ready to graduate, so it’s hard to say where those relationships would have ended up. I’d like to think we’d have stayed in touch.
I wouldn’t have had reason to get that job at the Market in Cranbury, since there would have been no Prom to pay for, and we’d have been locked down, so I don’t think I would have had any job that summer.
I certainly wouldn’t have appeared as “Baby John” in that summer’s production of WEST SIDE STORY at the OAT. It had long been a dream of mine to be a part of that show, so that would have been out.
Most of my journal entries from that summer are about either West Side Story or about my adventures with my girlfriend and friends. It was a fun summer, filled with unannounced trips down the shore to Seaside, so many movies, an epic fourth of July celebration, and my learning how to try and be a decent boyfriend.
I realize that I’m shorting the details here, but that’s how this one’s going to be. It was a dynamic and exciting time in my life, and despite being a writer who generally enjoys the details, I’m afraid the bulk of these ones are going to remain where they are: in my memories, my journals, and wherever else they may have landed. I think it’s safe to say that my life would have changed pretty dramatically had the world locked down on March 13.
Do I know that for certain? Of course not. Would I eventually have gone on a date with her? Would NJ have opened up enough that we could have gone and had a lunch at Cranbury Lake sometime in August before she left for college? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.
Would the massive disruption that this pandemic has brought have simply washed that chapter of my life away? I don’t know.
What I do know is that if you have young people in your life, it’s worth considering what life-changing experiences and relationships they might have missed out on during all of this. Not to wallow in the things that aren’t happening, but to at least give thought to what they might have been expecting. What they might have been hoping for and what might have happened in their lives that is worth considering, worth acknowledging, worth mourning even.
The young lady in this story and I are still friends today. I’d like to think that we’d still be that if all this had happened, but we were just getting to know one another when all this would just been starting.
I am also left to wonder who I would have been at the end of that summer and who I’d have been going forward. That’s a bit more of a thought experiment than I’ve been able to wrap my head around as of yet. That next year would have been very different, I think had the world shut down in March of 1989. But we’ll get to that one next week.
I hope you’re all well and staying safe. Please take a moment to like, share and/or comment below! It makes a real difference!