What a Difference 20 Years Does (and Doesn’t) Make….Posted: July 25, 2013
High school looks so much cooler on TV. –unknown
A 20 year high school reunion…sign me up! Couldn’t wait to get there. Loved high school. The opportunity to see familiar faces…not just classmates, but people who I had grown up with and those who helped (in big and small ways) influence and shape my life. Yes, yes–a thousand times yes, I would definitely go!
As the momentum for the big weekend began to build, my mind was flooded with memories. Memories of old friends, teachers, dance team days, newspaper staff, cruising Main Street, school projects and parties. The floodgates really opened up while looking through the school yearbook, hearing songs from the “glory days” and chatting with my best friend about who might attend (do you think he’ll be there…and would she actually show up?) The “do you remembers” tapped into a part of my heart that burst with good times and great adventures. Let’s do this!
Imagine my surprise when the RSVPs started to roll in (thanks to facebook we could see this in real-time) and not everyone clicked “yes.” What???? This was going to be great, this was going to be so much fun! How could you not want to be a part of this? My mind quickly rationalized the obstacles of time, distance and money. The realities of job and family commitments. Okay, I understand that, but if you could attend…wouldn’t you want to? Shouldn’t you want to? As I counted the days and shared my excitement with family and friends their comments and perspectives gave way to a different idea. What if, they suggested, high school wasn’t so great for everyone. That our teen years can be/are/were difficult, lonely and confusing. The possibility that maybe there were people who one couldn’t and wouldn’t want to see (ever again?) That perhaps there were some who just wanted to move on and did so without ever wanting to look back. To be honest, I just had a hard time accepting this…until….
A mere two hours before the first scheduled event, a panic ensued that I had not anticipated. Not really prone to nervousness, I immediately dismissed the incredible dread that was building up in my stomach and the wave of jitters that was creeping in from all sides. And a nagging thought settled on my spirit–did I really want to do this? Followed by a worse thought–COULD I REALLY DO THIS? I remember sitting across from my best friend at our hometown Pizza Hut and NOT being able to eat a thing. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be! I hadn’t driven four hours for this. I hadn’t made plans to meet up with old friends only to become a “no-show” myself.
In my 20 minute panic attack I think I experienced a little bit of what might hold someone back. Doubts that probably mirror some of the teen angst from 20 years ago. Will anyone notice me? Will I be remembered? Followed by, will I be remembered well? Have I done anything of significance in the last two decades? Have I grown and changed in positive ways? Will I foul up anybody’s name? Let me sidebar here to tell you what a good, dear, sweet friend I have. She talked me down from this insane moment of fear. She reminded me how much I had looked forward to this. She convinced me that we would have a wonderful time. We talked. We prayed. We shared. We ate bread sticks and pizza. And (finally) we went. 30+ classmates and spouses took part in the reunion activities. It was fun (and funny at times) to see each other again. Who had changed and who had stayed exactly the same. The hugs abounded and the memories came alive (especially as the class yearbook was passed around!) There was much chatter about where everyone lived now and who was married and with how many kids. I loved meeting my classmates spouses and later at the picnic, seeing their kiddos. It was fun to hear the stories again and remember the good times. How much we still had in common after all these years and how life and time had changed each of us. And yet, throughout the weekend one comment came up time and time again as classmates marveled at how well we all got along NOW. Now? It never occurred to me that we didn’t get along back then. Maybe the conversations didn’t flow as easily in the old days? Maybe we held on a little too tightly to our cliques and groups? Maybe it was just harder to fit in? But, perhaps it was something else. I sort of chalked up any divisiveness and separation to adolescent self-involvement. I know this was true for myself. I don’t really remember not getting along with anyone, but I do know that I was completely absorbed with my own friends and interests. My world was small then and in order for it to make sense, I’ll admit I approached it with teenage tunnel vision. And doesn’t it make sense that in our early days we would gravitate toward those whose worlds most resembled our own? It’s not an excuse, it was just a consequence of immaturity. And I think this is why reunions have the potential to become so much more.
Today, twenty years later we probably have a lot more in common than ever before. Sure we grew up in the same town and our families’ lives were often intertwined, but that may have been the extent of it. Now we can relate to each other on so many new levels like jobs and careers, marriage and relationships, pregnancy and parenthood, divorce, illness, faith and every other degree of success and loss imaginable. We’ve matured and with that we’ve grown… allowing circles to open up and boundaries to blur. In a strange way, it might actually be possible for us to grow closer 20 years after graduation!
A four-hour car ride home makes for a great time of contemplation. I smiled to myself as various conversations replayed in my head. I thought of those who had moved on with great success knowing how hard they worked…their positive attitudes and energy making my heart soar. I prayed for those who had braved great and difficult challenges and who appeared to come out stronger for it. And somewhere on the wide open prairie, the song “Bruises” by Train came on the radio. Bruises of triumph and pain. Bruises that remind us that we’re all human, imperfect and in the same boat. Its chorus reminds us that all these things “make for better conversation, loses the vibe that separates, it’s good to let you in again, you’re not alone in how you’ve been….” It was the perfect ending to a reunion weekend, and guess what? I can’t wait to do it all over again!