In the world of high school reunions, 40 may be the magic number.
Clearly, reunions mean different things to different people, and depending on their high school memories and which reunion it is, people have different reasons for going or not going.
Some go to reminisce about the “good old days.” But not all of us remember them that way.
My high school years were, to be blunt, awful. I was a shy underachiever lacking in self-confidence and generally miserable. My goal after high school graduation was to get out of town as quickly as possible and leave the not-so-happy memories behind. Good riddance.
To me, the idea of a reunion meant a painful trip down memory lane. No surprise that when my five-year reunion rolled around, I didn’t even consider going.
Maybe we didn’t even have one. I was living out of state, and had only kept in touch with a couple of people. There was no “social media.” Networking was basically word of mouth or face-to-face at the local bar.
Besides, it hadn’t been that long since graduation and I figured things hadn’t changed all that much as far as cliques, gossip and high-school drama. No thank you.
Ditto for year 10.
When the time for my 20th reunion approached, I was living in Michigan and decided to go.
Looking back, I can’t really say why. It was partly curiosity. But also because I felt I had something to prove. Whether it was to myself, or someone else, I’m not certain. The overall experience was less than satisfying.
My 30th reunion probably would be have been better, but I was so frazzled by work and the recent birth of my twin daughters that I barely remember it.
So, given my lack of enthusiasm for reunions past, why I would I go to my 40th reunion?
In a word, time.
Time has passed–quite a bit since our graduation–and the overall effect is that the stuff that was important to us in our earlier years doesn’t really matter any more.
No one cares which clique you were in–Greaser, Stoner, Jock or Cheerleader. Or for that matter, if you’ve been a stay-at-home mom (or dad), or a high-powered attorney in the intervening years. (And if I’m wrong, and someone is keeping score, I really don’t care.)
Time also has a way of bringing clarity and reordering our priorities. It’s no longer the next big promotion or dream home topping our lists, but our own health and well being, and that of our family and friends.
Sadly, we’ve lost quite a few classmates, including a very close friend of mine. Do we really need any other reason to get together and enjoy each other’s company?
I recently had a chance–pre-reunion–to spend time with a few former classmates I hadn’t seen for many years. What stuck me the most was the way I immediately felt at ease, despite the passage of time and lack of contact.
Then I realized why. These are the people I came of age with. We walked the same hallways, sat in the same classrooms, lived in the same town.
But more than that, we lived through the same events–the Vietnam War, the first moon landing, Kent State and Woodstock, to name a few–events that changed our world and shaped our lives and views.
We have, as one of my former classmates put it, a lot of common ground.
That sense of community and shared values is important, I believe, to our own sense of self. It helps us remember where we came from and why we are the way we are.
Yes, Facebook and Twitter connect us in ways that were unheard of a few years ago. But in my opinion, they can never replace the real thing–the sometimes awkward, often messy and possibly painful need to connect in person.
Even if it means going to your high school reunion.