I attended my thirtieth high school reunion this past weekend. Thirtieth. I keep saying it, it keeps not making sense. I must have been a child prodigy, right? Graduated in 1984 at the age of 2. It’s funny how three decades can pass and yet it could have been the time from third period to lunch since I’ve seen these people. Time folds, it’s like we’re not college degrees, careers, spouses, houses, kids, and grandkids apart, but merely a Social Studies class with Mr. Whinna away. “It’s in the eyes,” Sue said, recognizing newcomers as they walked through the doorway. She’s right. Hair grays, faces crease, bodies slim down or fill out, but the eyes, they stay the same. And once you recognize the person, you don’t know how you didn’t.
In honor of public education, here are some things I learned from my high school reunion:
1. People change.
Are you the same person you were in high school? I’d like to think I’m a better person than I was back then. I remember some of the things I said and did– and I cringe. I forgive myself my transgressions because, well, c’mon, I was a stupid teenager. And this was long before scientists endorsed ignorant behavior in adolescents. I wasn’t mature enough to know better then, but since I no longer have that excuse, I better be makin’ better decisions.
2. People don’t change.
Are you the same person you were high school? Ignorant decisions aside, probably. If you were smart in high school, you’re probably still smart. If you were friendly and outgoing back then, you’re probably still the life of the party. If you were once athletic, you’re probably not going to let a few decades stand in your way of keeping fit. If you had to look down because everyone was beneath you, sad to say, your view is probably very much the same. If you stood by the sidelines and watched the popular kids sail past you socially and only come to the reunions to see if they got their comeuppance, well, you’re probably still disappointed.
3. A Brain, an Athlete, A Basket Case, a Princess, and a Criminal
Yes, we are. Of course there are cliques in high school, but it’s so much bigger than that. We can’t help it. We are drawn to or repelled by each other. Sometimes it’s personal, but mostly it’s chemical, subconscious and inevitable. We self-segregate based on our attractions, our comfort zone, and our interests. And obviously on looks and financial status, too, lol. Instead of judging those who exclude you, realize it’s not an exclusion it’s a favor and appreciate the people you’re with.
4. Life is like High School
I know you know this, how could you not? The dickhead who bullied you in high school, the one that stole your lunch money and slammed you into the locker, is now your neighbor, might as well buy two sets of garden tools and a pooper-scooper for his dog/your yard. The slacker who always ended up in your group for every group project, who did nothing but come up with excuses while you worked your butt off to get (him) an “A”, is your boss. The coach that made you run laps for practice, for punishment, for your own good, is now your doctor (how is your cholesterol?). I never said life was fair, I only said it was like high school. Even in the groups you have now, there is the stereotype breakdown. Think about it—in your office, your Zumba class, or your book club, I bet there are a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. And a “raids Barry Manilow’s closet,” Mr. Vernon. Of course, whichever stereotype you can’t find, is probably you.
5. Still not using that math.
6. We’re all where we’re supposed to be.
It may have taken us thirty years to get here, but where we are is where we’re supposed to be. Maybe we stopped trying so hard to fight the inner criminal or outer princess, or maybe we discovered we really were meant for other things and finally got the courage (freedom, permission, money?) to pursue them. Maybe it took this long to find love. Maybe it took this long to realize the love we’d found was not good for us. Maybe we’ve gotten comfortable with what we’d “settled” for. Whatever, no matter. We’re here and we’ve earned it. Life is good and hopefully it’s only going to get better…
In conclusion, I can’t wait for the 35th reunion. Yes, I said that. I’m not wishing five years away, but I do look forward to the big changes I anticipate to come in the next half-decade. I realize reunions are not for everyone, but I enjoy them and am thankful for others that do, too. Thirty years and I’m still learnin’.