For many adults, high school is a time they are glad is over, done, finito. Some remember their adolescent years as traumatic and cringe at the prospect of seeing their peers from their old stompin’ grounds ever again. Others feel awkward to remember the way that they used to be. So when a high school reunion rolls around, people come up with all kinds of excuses for not attending.
Right, wrong, or indifferent, I decided to make it a priority to make it to my high school class reunions each time one has rolled around. Ah yes, this gal has been at ALL of the class reunions that have been held, and that sort of surprises me.
For my 10th, I was hoping that my accomplishments, degree, and handsome husband would prove that I had “arrived” and that I was a success after all. From the 10th’s awkwardness and one-ups-man-ship, I moved into the 20th, which proved to be delightfully devoid of the pressure to impress. I found it to be incredibly pleasant, with so much less to prove. Perhaps it was the dawn of parenthood, having babies, and becoming master jugglers of the multiple responsibilities of life that caused our hubris to die a necessary death. I truly felt like I connected and openly talked with my classmates without ego and with lots of curiosity. I learned so much that weekend.
Well, the 25th high school reunion took place this past weekend. While only 10% of my 250 classmates made the trip, it was great to see everyone. The small size of the crowd allowed for deeper conversations and reconnection on a more intimate basis. From those conversations, I discovered that one of my high school classmates in attendance had dropped out of school while she was a sophomore to get married. She never returned to school. One quiet wallflower had developed into a knockout, high-powered real estate agent. While another hard-charging jock and sports fanatic had changed course, and is now a singer and painter in Nashville. One of the most profound experiences I had was a male classmate approached me to apologize about being a jerk to me and making high school difficult at times for me. He had obviously harbored guilt and shame for a long time about the way that he treated me. It was a welcomed, and unexpected apology for things that had been long forgotten.
Those stories show why I think reunions are so important. By the time that the big ones come around, especially the 20th and on, you've had kids of your own and you start to see how high school was always ridiculous, a social experiment at best. Most likely, you are currently helping your own progeny navigate the ups and downs of cliques, peer pressure and the freedoms that exist in high school and middle school. It took me a lot of gumption to go to my 10th, confront the fears of teenage years, old boyfriends, bullies, etc., but you know what I realized by attending? They were naïve, silly, awkward kids just like me who made mistakes. Some of those mistakes haunted them for years and shaped their lives. Going to a reunion can be a chance to redeem themselves and ask for forgiveness, or it can be an enjoyable way to see where everyone landed and what sort of lives they were living.
All in all, the decision to attend a high school reunion is largely personal and fraught with emotion. It’s easy to remember how things felt years ago and shy away from the potentially uncomfortable situation again. But remember that teenagers grow up, and they develop empathy, compassion and fully functioning hearts. Perhaps you will gain more by putting yourself out there and seeing that high school was merely one of the steps along your path. Do it, and you just might become a reunion fan like me…