There are a few moments from my life where I very distinctly remember and probably never will forget how I felt at those exact moments. One of those times was the night of my high school graduation at a lock-in the PTA had set up for the graduates to keep us away from the booze. I specifically remember the feeling I had when I thought, ‘We’ll never all be together like this ever again.’ I’m sure some people would think that and be thrilled. I had spent my entire life in the same town, attending the same elementary/middle/high school, so the idea that the inhabitants of my bubble world were about to permanently split in many different directions was just mind-boggling and saddening.
Ten years later, there we were together in one place — not all of us — but enough of us for it to feel weird. Not weird in the why-is-my-ex-boyfriend-eating-dinner-in-the-same-restaurant-as-me kind of way but in the why-are-these-people-singing-and-dancing-in-the-middle-of-a-bus,-oh-it’s-a-flash-mob kind of way. Here were all the people we knew in high school, but we were socializing in a very non-high-school grown up kind of way.
The reunion committee planned two specific outings for us — barbecue and beer at a bar on Friday night and a full-on cocktail event with band on Saturday night. Friday night only about a hundred people (out of a class of 500) showed up and it was mostly the people who had come from out of town. But they were people from all different corners of high school life — the jocks, the band geeks, the nerds, the in crowd (I use geeks and nerds with affection as I was one). And yet that night we transcended clicks. We had earnest conversations with each other about jobs and life and how we’d gotten where we were. Sure, I knew what most everyone was doing thanks to Facebook, but to hear them talk about those things I already knew was refreshing. To see that we could come together and forget whatever it was that might have kept us apart during school was amazing.
Many more people came to our Saturday night cocktail affair on Beale Street, and while people still greeted those that they may have only spoke a few words to in high school, everyone seemed to migrate back into their natural high school clicks. And that was OK too. It was understandable that everyone wanted to spend time catching up and having fun with the people who had their backs in high school — I know I didn’t get enough of my HS BFFs in two short days. To know that we could spend so much time apart and still find ways to laugh and enjoy ourselves with our old friends was comforting.
I never once felt anxious about the whole thing, and am here to reassure you younguns who might be grappling with the decision of whether to attend your reunion in the next year or two. From what I’ve read on other blogs and heard from friends older than I, my experience is not unique. If you’re anxious, know that there are people from all heights of the social ladder who feel the same way. If you’re worried about losing interest in the reunion after an hour, pressure an old classmate into going with you to be your safety net. If you feel like you don’t care about your old classmates, know that everyone changes and matures.
It’s really not about your old classmates anyway. It’s about recognizing how you and everyone else have grown and changed while still managing to maintain a sense of who you were as a kid. And it’s about celebrating that paradox and the reassuring feeling that comes from it.