Monday, July 18, 2016

Why You Should Go To Your High School Reunion

Few things can be as anxiety ridden as attending your first High School reunion. I can remember attending my 10th high school reunion and the angst I felt on the drive there. I was 28 and was just  getting established in my career and had finished college but hadn't really made my mark in the world. I had outgrown any youthfull geekiness and was (and am) a very confident adult. I was also much hotter at 28 than at 18. High school was definitely not a high point in my life but it was tolerable enough and I decided to go.

So last weekend I went to my 30th reunion. I have attended others, not all of them, but they were fun. This one left me a bit more pensive than most. I realize that high school reunions are a great reference point to who you are now.  Although we may say it, life is nothing like high school.  At no other time in our lives are the decisions we make  as permanent and irrevocable like they are in high school. Fail out of college? Go back to Jr. College.  Fired from a job? Go get another one. Bad marriage? Remarry.  Life after high school is full of second chances. High school not so much.  You had four years to complete a set of tasks: physical, academic and social and then its over. No going back. Your regrets, will be your regrets and there's no do-overs like you have as an adult. 

What reunions do is take us back to the last day of high school. The last day you really were a "kid". The last day when gossip, cliques, animosities and friendships seemed to be the most important things in the world. Probably the last day you thought like a kid, and not realizing that all that stuff is going to be packed away like an old yearbook, left to collect dust.  The reunions allow you to go to that last day of school and forgive yourself for bad choices, forgive your classmates for real or imagined slights or just move on and see that all these people are just typical screwed up adults.

For just a few hours you can undo some of the damage that high school inflicted on us.  Those annoying insecurities that we "just did not measure up" to our peers in some way.  And for a few hours you can remember that some people were assholes in high school still seem kinda assholish today, so the kid in you might not have been wrong either.....which is healing as well.  Then there is kid the adult in you can't forgive because the transgression is too great or too humiliating.  So you both just avoid each other.

For me personally, I go back as the only openly gay man out of a class of over 600 people.  I find it somehow empowering to "represent" with my classmates.  Weirdly, many of my classmates go out of their way to make me feel welcome as a gay man and I love to play into the best of the gay stereotypes and some of the worst.  For instance, I am happy to flirt with the girls and even with the boys who at late middle age, can't come out of the closet. I prefer the company of the women over that of the guys, being gay, it's just a more natural fit. The (straight) guys talk about work and sports, the women talk about challenges of child rearing, careers as women, as parents.  Challenges that as a gay man I can relate to.  Also, as a many a gay man can attest to, being surrounded by a lot of women is a lot safer than trying to fake talk sports with a bunch of drunken straight men. 

So I do recommend going to a high school reunion. You can reconnect with people and feel some camaraderie in the fact that you a prolonged shared experience with them, even if you didn't know them then it can be the basis for new friendships. But throughout that night, for some brief moments, you can reunite with that kid you were, give him a hug and and reassure him a bit. Because you're not that kid anymore, you're so much more.