A friend attended his 30th High School Reunion this weekend, and since mine is only a few weeks away this topic has been heavy in my thoughts.
Reunions bring with them a variety of emotions, and many choose to stay away all together. It is easiest for many to lump the memories all in the "Crap Pile" and simply not show up.
There are those who lived through pain in their adolescent years, felt misunderstood, or struggled with identities. Even the kids who seemed to "have it all" were not necessarily happy in their popularity. No matter where or when we grew up, it seems we all went to the same high school of emotional experiences. The stories I hear from all over line up in more ways than most would ever imagine.
The reunion for my friend was a pleasant experience, but he was taken aback that only 1/4 of his graduating class chose to be present. Others who came sat with their best friends of thirty years and never spoke to anyone outside of the corner from where they sat to observe. But then there were the people who came to the party and embraced their past and present. These are the one that created an evening that was memorable. Some of the most engaged were "outsiders" in while in school, but that night they stood shoulder to shoulder with their classmates... proud in themselves today.
I believe those who stayed away from my friend's reunion, or hid in the corner, missed a great opportunity.
A reunion does not need to be a re-visit of a past if you choose to see it as an opportunity. It is an evening that is only a few hours long, and nobody is there to cause harm or shame to others. He said there was no conversation about career or financial success, but more of a genuine interest in the journey each person had taken. Some of those journeys were good, others were not-so-good, but they all lead to this one moment in time. For him the evening was a chance to share with a group he shared a unique connection.
A classmate of mine, Dan, posted on Facebook of his struggles 30 years ago, but proclaimed his excitement to fly across the country to be present at our reunion. Many of his current friends asked why he would care to spend the time and money to go to such an event, when he has grown up and moved on.... but he clearly knows his purpose in wanting to be connected to his high school peers, all who are real people living in the real world.
In his Facebook post Dan said:
"We're all middle age. We've all had our own burdens. We've all become more mature and wiser. We've all realized what is important. We've put that silliness of young adulthood behind, and realized that we don't have to agree on fashion, politics, religious beliefs, or sexuality to deeply care about each other."
He nailed what many others fail to realize before a reunion. People do change and grow. Many discover themselves and are not connected to the actions and beliefs they held in high school.
When seen as a fresh start to network with interesting people, many you will really be meeting meet for the first time (as did we know each other then? Did we know ourselves?), a reunion can become a once in a lifetime (or once a decade) event. Will there be those who are the same jerks they were decades earlier... YEP. But they will be the exception, not the rule.
5 Tips for Successfully Attending at a High School Reunion
1. Expect people to be nice. You will get from others what you give to them. Even those who were stuck up or jerks in the past can prove to be the coolest people today.
2. Do not worry about your weight, the car you drive, the house you live in, your job title, your relationships status, where you went to college (or that you didn't go to college), etc... The reality is that nobody cares. Come with an attitude to connect and hear about them and you will be pleasantly surprised.
3. Let go of petty jealousies, rivalries, and attitudes toward individuals. Do not assume you know how others felt (or feel) about you. You are not clairvoyant, and often your assessments of their thoughts do not line up with the reality.
4. Get out of the corner and go talk to people. Introduce yourself, and if they do not remember you, do not be offended. It has been a long time and they have had their own "stuff" going on in their life. Ask question of others about their journey since graduation, When it is your turn to talk, do not brag or whine. Just tell them about who you are now.
5. Have fun. It is only a few hours, and you may make a connection that could become an important friend for the rest of your life.
Time has a way of eliminating the importance of who was the cool one, the attractive one, the smart one, the rich one, or the athletic one. Show up and be the one who cares about the others in the room, and you will find most of your classmates are just like you (they care too, or they would not have shown up).
My friend was happy to have chosen to be at his reunion (as the next one is ten years away) and I am very excited about attending mine. While some old friends have informed me they are choosing not to be there... I realize that the people who do decide to be present are the ones I am meant to have in my life that night.
I can't wait to see who is amazing.
Have A Great Day