High school reunions. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. I am one who happens to love them. Last weekend was my 25th reunion. Wait, did I just say “25th”?!
I love these reunions simply because they’re so ‘real.’ Back in high school and when we’re kids, we label each other – we say this one’s super smart, this one’s pretty, this one’s whatever. Labels helped us define the world around us as we were learning to find our own way. But as adults now, the playing field gets leveled and no one has any of those labels. We don’t need that anymore.
At the core, we’re all the same anyway. We’ve all struggled. We’ve all had fear get in our way. We’ve all reached for goals or worked hard toward a dream. We’ve all questioned ourselves. We’ve all had a vision for our future.
Bottom-line: We’re all just striving to do our best in life. Plain and simple.
It doesn’t matter what your religion is, what you wear, where you live, what you do (or don’t do) for a living, what your sexual orientation is, or where you come from. The one common thread I’ve seen in the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with over the years, is that everyone just wants to feel “normal.” Each and every person yearns to know that they’re not so different from the rest of the world.
My biggest learning in my coaching profession is how we truly are all the same.
At our reunion, the stories from classmates ran the full spectrum of the human experience. We’ve had children. We’ve had cancer. We’ve gotten married. We’ve lost parents. We’ve gotten divorced. We’ve traveled the world. We’ve been dealt tremendous blows. We’ve achieved great professional success. You name it, one or more of us has experienced it. The way I see it, now that we’ve grown up – and as adults – we simply ‘get’ one another in a way that we weren’t able to in high school.
It’s this understanding and realization that I LOVE about these reunions.
I wasn’t friends with everyone in high school. And I missed out on a lot of parties (it’s okay, I’ve more than made up for it since then). There are lots of things I said or did back then that I wish I could take back. I had my share of times when I did what was “popular” instead of doing what was right. There are things I’ve carried with me for years where I might have hurt someone’s feelings or I might have slighted someone. In the scheme of life, the things I’m referring to are pretty small, but to me – everything is important and everything is a big deal.
I’ll chalk it all up to teenage lack of confidence. I’m going to let those things go, though, and trust that it’s all good now.
Moving to St. Louis Park
I started out with St. Louis Park Schools in the middle of 7th grade after moving back here from L.A. The trends were pretty different between here and there, so I remember asking another girl what I should wear here in Minnesota to “fit in.”
On that cold winter day in early 1982, she told me I’d be all set if I had: 1) Moon boots, 2) Lee jeans, and 3) A rainbow sweater. Which is exactly what I wore on my first school day here in December! Confident that I was dressed for success, I did end up forgetting my shoes at home, so I had to trudge through the hallways with my Lee jeans’ pantlegs stuffed inside my big fat puffy moon boots. Oy! A little embarrassing.
What’s so cool about these people I hung out with last weekend is that they were “there” with me during that awkward time. Whether they knew me or not, they were wearing some of the same goofy stuff that I was. They had the same teachers. They called themselves “Orioles.” They also searched to find their place in the world. Like me – they, too, simply wanted to fit in. It’s as though we all went through this really awkward segment of life together.
Life was tough for me at that time. I came here to live with my dad after my mom got remarried in L.A. My dad was a bouncer at one of the roughest bars in Minneapolis and not really living a lifestyle that was conducive to parenting a girl just turning 13. But we worked it out; we did our best.
So, at the reunion, the whole thing felt like a “home base” of sorts, and all kinds of memories came flooding back. I was catapulted back to 7th grade seeing my first “boyfriend.” I was suddenly back at a Bar Mitvah party playing “Spin the Bottle” (hee hee!). I was back in 9th grade with my dad dropping me and my date off at our school dance. I was back wandering the high school hallways between classes watching out for cute guys I had crushes on (they’ll never know who they are!). I was back at prom.
What a thrill all these years later to meet their wives or see pictures of their beautiful children or learn about the professions they’re involved in. And what a joy for me to introduce my best friend and soulmate of 20 years, Bill. SO cool how we’ve all grown up!
We all look different. I mean – we look great, but we look different. I love seeing the gray hair. I love seeing the more mature and sophisticated looks. That night, you could overhear people talking about what a drag it is to get older.
But I see beauty.
I see the mark of someone who’s “lived life.” That’s a very attractive thing. The part that fills my heart it is that we’re all doing it together at the same pace. Pretty cool.
It’s been funny as our pictures have been posted on Facebook – to hear from people who were not at the event. They’ve asked us all to please ‘tag’ the photos so they know who everyone is. Ha! Yep, that’s what 25 years can do. :)
One classmate I would have loved to see that night as a 40-something, was my friend, Dawn. But she wasn’t there. I’ll never forget one particular moment in time, ten years ago, at our 15th reunion. She stood up on top of a barstool with a microphone to get our attention – it was to announce the winners of the night’s prize drawings. Freeze that image.
At our next reunion, the 20th, I had the honors of creating a memorial board for our classmates who had a checkmark in the “deceased” column. Dawn’s smiling face was right in the middle of the bright yellow board.
Cutting out and gluing the photocopy of her senior picture on that board crushed me. Looking back, she was the first one to reach out to me when I first moved to St. Louis Park. She took me under her wing and welcomed me into her family. It’s still hard to believe that Dawn is no longer here to enjoy these reunions and celebrate with us.
Life is short and life is uncertain. Who would have ever thought that one day Dawn would be here…and the next day she would not?
Certainly not her parents.
Certainly not her two children.
Certainly not her classmates.
However, it does go without saying that as time moves on – our memorial board will have more of our bright smiling faces added to it. It’s simply a reality.
Traveling the journey together
I understand that not everyone is into reunions and I completely respect that. For me, though, I cherish these special celebratory times together as we all keep moving along in this journey of life.
Many of the hugs I gave out at the reunion were to people I didn’t know in high school. For whatever reason, our paths didn’t cross back then. But that’s irrelevant. As adults, navigating life, our paths certainly do cross now in a truly meaningful and wonderful way. I’m so blessed to have this home-base posse that will always ‘get’ me in a way that feels so comforting.
The morning after the reunion, I posted on Facebook: “Every single hug, conversation, and interaction was so genuine and heartfelt – what a cool experience to be in a room of over 100 people and be truly happy to see every single person.”
God bless, Everyone. See you at our 30th!
Oh, and one final thought in the meantime. Live. Life. Now. Embrace the things that bring you joy.
I bet that’s what Dawn would tell us.