This past weekend, I attended my 25th high school reunion (I graduated from George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, VA, and yes I am officially old!). My high school experience was what I'd call a "mixed bag" of ups and downs. I was fortunate to be part of the school's marching and symphonic band, it was my main social group and we got to travel to a lot of places like Florida and the UK. I wasn't immune to the heartbreaks, the petty fights among friends, and disappointments when things didn't go the way I wanted. Yet, I recall taking some good advice from my dad and made friends outside the school and worked part-time jobs to help avoid the high school drama.
When the plans for our 25th reunion were announced, I knew I was going to go because I wanted to see those faces from the past and connect with people that I had been friends with on Facebook. For better or worse, I think the reunions of today are basically a bunch of Facebook profiles getting together in a hotel banquet room. In some ways, I think the presence of social media has made the decision to attend a reunion easier, because knowing what a lot of people have been up to can help ease the anxiety of the unknown.
The reunion weekend events were primarly the Homecoming football game, a school tour, and then our respective class gatherings (my sister was celebrating her 30th reunion). I wasn't planning to go to the football game because the weather had called for rain. But, my son Jack really wanted to go, so I couldn't turn down that request and we headed to the game. I'm glad I listened to him because I enjoyed sharing a little bit of my history with him.
We walked the same walk I used to make when the marching band headed down to the football field and as we walked, I pointed out different things about the school. Once we got to the field, it was amazing to see how so many things were the same - where the band sat, what the cheerleaders cheered, and how the student section was filled with all the archetypes we know so well. It was oddly comforting to see the high school experience play out just as it had 25 years ago; going back in time for a night validated for me that I was part of one big group...a group where we were all "normal" in our teenage dysfunctionality.
On Saturday, the Class of 1966, the first class to graduate from Marshall, hosted a tour through the school. An amazing amount of renovations have been done to the school and it was nice walking the halls with my classmates as well as with my sister and her classmates. I felt that feeling again of one big family, walking around, feeling proud of the school, and knowing what we shared in common: good memories and traditions.
At the party on Saturday night, I could see where the cliques of the past were gravitating toward one another, but it didn't feel like an "us" versus "them", people came in and out of those groups to talk to one another. It was a great opportunity to re-connect, meet people we didn't know before, and even make amends for some wrong-doings in the past. And that's exactly how reunions should be - even if it took a few drinks and until after 2am to do it.
One of the members of the reunion committee had our graduation ceremony playing on a loop. I have forgotten a lot of details of my past, chemo-brain, mom brain, and age have done that to me. But, I did have a flash of remembering how one of my history teachers met me at the end of the stage after I received my diploma and gave me the ever-famous Dr. Seuss book, "Oh, The Places You'll Go". I'm so glad I remembered that moment at the reunion because it helped me appreciate that much more the life I've lived, we've all lived these past 25 years.
If you ever find yourself asking whether you should go to your high school reunion, I personally think you should because who you are now isn't who you were in high school. And what I learned at the reunion was who I thought I was in high school was not how others viewed me - I was reminded of some really nice things about myself! Sure, we all have our core personality traits that reveal themselves, but life has shaped us all into different versions of our former selves. Wearing this button sure helped me see that...