Who the heck goes to high school reunions?? (and what would you tell your high school self now?)
I wrote this a few years ago as we prepared for our ‘not quite a milestone #’ high school reunion. As the years have gone by, we rapidly approach the next gathering; this time aptly titled “You Do The Math”. Many people are “meh”, on the idea of getting together and hanging out with people from the past. Today, I learned of the death of one of the guys I had classes with back in the day. We reconnected a few years ago on Facebook, just like many of my generation. I was reintroduced to a nice guy who was vaguely familiar and we shared some laughs and reminisced. It was a comfortable friendship, relaxed and cozy, like the worn pair of jeans and soft cotton t-shirt you put on when you don’t care about impressing anyone. It brought the feeling that embraces you and lets you just be yourself, no make-up and windblown hair. It made me sad to know I wouldn't see him this fall at the reunion. He’s the 2nd person in my class who has died this year. Perhaps I’m at that age, when this becomes the norm and not a rarity….*sigh*. So, it’s time to dust this off and remind myself why I should book my flights and hotel for that particular weekend in NYC this fall.
Here’s my response to the question posed by one of my high school classmates when asked, “Why reunions?”
Is there logic in shelling out a bunch of money, traversing miles and enduring the wrath of travel gods to get together with people you haven’t seen in decades? Does it make sense to try and reconnect with those familiar strangers, whose lives intersected yours for a brief time, before you set off to make your way into the world? Is this an attempt to feel young again?
Well, hell yeah…at least the last part. As for making sense and being logical, pffft! There’s enough time spent in our every day lives, in our 3-D world, being what we ‘should’ be and doing what we’re ‘supposed to’ do. So for one night (or in our case, one weekend), we get to be and do what WE want to. Obviously, this includes ending sentences with a preposition(!) As my friend sat in a park, reminiscing about her youth ‘when things were easy, the future was bright and we were ready to take the world on’, there may have been a yearning for simpler times and a longing to be back there. Many of us have wonderful memories of our youth, a blissful time when we aspired to be conquerors and fix the planet. Others think back on an awkward time when we tried too hard to fit in and be cool, maybe we were picked on or thoughtless. In either case, most of us view those days with rose colored glasses and our memories are a bit fuzzy….thankfully so, in most cases.
These are the people I can’t wait to see, be together with, share laughs and perhaps a few tears. They were the ones who accepted me or at least tolerated me, as a prepubescent teen who knew everything. We were SO smart, SO superior, and oh SO stylish! In our leather jackets, Capezios, not one, but TWO Polo shirts- collars up, of course! How cool was our music? Well, there are clubs, radio stations and entire subcultures dedicated to OUR music. We were children of the (early) 80s, the Vietnam War was a distant memory and Reaganomics was in its infancy. An idyllic time immortalized in John Hughes films, and though we were touched by the tragedy of John Lennon’s death, we were inspired by the first space shuttle flight.
Am I looking to replicate that era? I don’t know…. But if it happens, I would welcome it. The time and place where I didn’t worry so much, there was little stress and choices were not life and death. The innocence and naivete of a world before AIDS and crack; a time when my only concern was not getting caught cutting Mr. Jacobs class and making sure THAT boy noticed how nice my hair looked. I miss the time when life’s decisions were small and the limit was the sky, and beyond. Surrounding me during this magical time, when we were invincible, were wonderful, quirky, amazing people. Fabulous, artsy, funny, sweet and generous people…who have gone on to do incredible things! Those nerds have helped change the way the world thinks, acts, learns and plays. My classmates are authors, musicians, teachers, attorneys, doctors…mothers and fathers, heroes and even some rocket scientists. They’ve enriched the lives of so many and made a difference, just like they aspired to do. Those bankers, techies, cops, and stay at home parents who grew up doing exactly what they planned and those who ended up doing nothing they dreamed about, but do it anyway, cause that’s what we do.
So back to the original question, why reunions? I’m going for the memories, for the lost dreams and unsophisticated times. I’m going for the friends I knew, connections I had, and the curiosity. I’m going, for the ones we lost, who I won’t get to see and wish I could, just once more. I’m going, to remind me of the person I was before, and perhaps learn more about who I am. It may not truly answer the question for anyone else, but for me it’s enough. I read somewhere that one of the most common regrets of people on their death bed is that they didn’t get to do the things they wanted to do, another is that they lost touch with friends~I get to insure those aren’t mine. I get to be in the greatest city in the world, at a glorious time of year with awesome friends, being and doing exactly what I want to do, how cool is that?
As part of our reunion celebration, we’re putting together a memory book and one of the questions is:
Words of wisdom — what would you tell your high school self now?
This is my response:
You are in the company of some amazing people, don’t let 30+ years go by before you realize that.