Back to School: Reflections from my 10-year high school reunion
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "reunion" as "a reuniting of persons after separation." The real meaning of reunion — particularly with regard to a high school or college reunion — goes much deeper and may be more traumatizing than the textbook definition suggests.
Let me begin with the premise that I loved high school and my high school friends. I also loved college and law school and all the non-academic bonuses of being a young, carefree student. From cliques, extracurricular activities and frivolous gossip, to dating dramas and non-stop socializing, I relished my existence as a young, blithe student.
Ten years ago, I graduated from high school on a glistening, sun-scorching mid-May morning at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. After the ceremony and the tearful goodbyes, I remembered taking one last glance at my classmates before getting into my car. I wondered about the people they would become, and about the many other people and experiences they would encounter. I looked forward to the 10-year reunion as a meeting point along our life journeys. But after that day — the turning point in most people’s lives before the transition to college or elsewhere — my 10-year high school reunion was among the last of my thoughts. Until last fall, when the organizers of my 10-year high school reunion contacted everyone to remind us that our reunion was planned for the following summer.
At that moment, I opened my dusty and tattered orange-and-black high school yearbook and looked through the thumb-nail sized, black-and-white pictures from my freshman year of myself and my classmates. We were so young, so vibrant and so hormonally charged. Genuinely happy.
As the summer reunion neared, the organizers produced more and more e-mails, subtlety begging people to sign up sooner, rather than later, and pay the hefty reunion prices despite the staggering economy. As the reunion grew more real and relevant, my excitement for it dwindled. As fond as I was of my high school days and friends, my life had deviated so much from that gorgeous day at Red Rocks 10 years ago, and I did not feel compelled to relive my glory day — and as another friend so aptly put it "to judge and be judged." I also started to relive many of my teenage insecurities about my social status, my appearance and my professional successes.
Remembering that people tend to regret the things that they do not do, I reluctantly committed to the Friday reunion happy hour and the Saturday dinner. Both were minutes away from my high school, the institution that held so many memories of study sessions, cheerleading practices, speech and debate classes and tournaments, awkward conversations with crushes and lunches with girlfriends. Now, I saw it as a chunk of my youth, the raw Becky Bye, without the sculpting of adult experiences, hardships, challenges, failures and triumphs.
Before reunion, I, along with two of my best high school friends, whom I still consider close friends and our significant others had some pre-schmoozing libations across the street at a restaurant that was prevalent in our high school days. Believe me, we needed it. After "taking the edge" off, snapping some photos and reminiscing about certain characters we’d like to see at the reunion, our trio ventured across the street. We were ready to fully immerse ourselves in our high school days, 10 years later.
As we walked inside, the reserved room was overflowing with familiar faces. Instantly, I was delighted to be in the same room with the many people that made my high school days fun and memorable. I caught up with old friends and acquaintances, and found out that many had become physicians, engineers and had their PhDs. Surprisingly, I did not find any other lawyers there besides me!
Fortunately, the rigid lines of the high school cliques had faded away. Everyone seemed to reacquaint with everyone else from my high school. I also was pleased to observe that the purpose of the night was not necessarily to reminisce about old times that had passed, but to discuss the present and the future. Everyone seemed genuinely happy with their lives, regardless of the direction they went.
Although I was there as such a different person, I did enjoy connecting with the same people as the person I was 10 years ago. A little part of my more youthful self came back that weekend, having reconnected with the inner teenagers of my high school counterparts.
Admittedly, there was a slight amount of "judging" and "being judged" throughout the reunion. I noticed that the successful (by conventional standards) people were quick to provide their oral resume upon greeting.
Overall the reunion was not as awkward and torturous as I presupposed. It reminded me of my youthful spirit, and reconfirmed my drastic evolution over the 10 most eventful years of my adult life. A significant part of my current identity lies with my role as a lawyer and my experience practicing law. Now, I look forward to the next 10 years, and what lies ahead in my practice of law and personal life, as well as my high school colleagues’ lives. If it is half as exciting as the last 10 years, I’ll be one lucky 38-year-old in 2019.