Ah, those high school reunions…

Perhaps both words–trepidation and anticipation–describe the feelings surrounding attending a high school reunion.

Especially when it’s the first one you’ve been to and you graduated thirty-some years ago.

Will bygones be bygones? Or will it be like too many TV shows or movies where old battles rear up? Will you have any John Cusack from Grosse Point Blank kind of moments? How many faces and names will you remember? Will people remember you so you don’t feel bad? Will that one eternally obnoxious person be there to bring up the embarrassing moment you have tried hard to forget?

What is it about an upcoming reunion—high school, college, whatever— that fills some of us with such dread? Or like my Dad who attended every reunion over the years—with such excitement to catch up?

High school is difficult for most kids. Teenagers are a little psychotic with various internal battles for one thing or the other to dominate. We’re trying out personalities. Teens want to discern likes and dislikes. We’re trying to be individuals when so much of society is telling up to be this or that. Mostly, we want to be grown up adults. We don’t want our parents to take care of us. Do we really want jobs for any reason besides having money? We want to play and have fun. Maybe we want a boy/girl friend. We don’t want tied down. Some of us wonder, is all there is? Doesn’t there have to be so much more? What comes after graduation? Where will the passions lead us? 

And now, after decades, will it be like to go back?

Showing Up to Your First Reunion

If you’re lucky, your increasing anxiety about attending a reunion evaporates when you get there. Reality is so often less threatening than what our imaginations create.

You walk in, thankful for seeing faces you’ve kept in touch with over the years. There’s relief that there’s no spinning glitter ball hanging from the ceiling. Maybe you’re joyful to see that particularly sweet friend from grade school you haven’t seen in way too long.

You visit with fellows who were charming and nice then and discover they’re the same now. Hugs are exchanged with girlfriends who were sweet and soft-spoken back in the day—you see they haven’t changed. You catch up on careers, kids, travels, cities lived in, happiness achieved. The old stuff dissipates the more you talk, trading the funny ones, not the hard ones. A classmate who sat behind you for seven years is still makes you laugh out loud. The friend you once comforted in the bathroom after a bad breakup is now a fiercely independent businesswoman. Maybe that friend you were looking forward to catching up with passed away and you have some somber moments.

Enjoying the Moments

Whatever happens when we go back, renewing connections for an evening or going forward, it’s simply more life coming on. I say: bring it. Dive into that reunion with the same gusto you take into every other portion of your adult life. There may be one person you avoid. Another you want to catch up with but the ebbs and flows of the room keep you from doing it. The reunion is worth it because it’s a milestone. It’s something on the life schedule that can either take place with you or without you. I say go for it and see how you feel on the other side.

Me? After thirty-eight years, it was good to see many faces and sure sad learning we’ve lost fourteen classmates. I enjoyed having mini conversations or talking for twenty minutes. It was good to discover that the monster-in-my-closet-mind of what could have been was off base when confronted with reality. It was delightful.

Have You Attended a Reunion 

How was it? Did you later connect on Facebook? Have old friendships renewed? Did you think, as I have, that every moment being there was worth it?

* Read, A Trip back to my College