What I Learned From My 20th High School Reunion

by farrah on August 14, 2014 · 6 comments

Last night I went to bed very early. Like 8:00 early. I was a little nervous, as when I’ve done this in the past I ended up waking around midnight unable to fall back asleep. My fears came true and I did wake up, but it was due to an awful nightmare. It bothered me so much that in the dark I fumbled around, found my phone and typed into the notes what it was about. Unable to fall back asleep, I tried to figure out what the nightmare meant. And then I circled it all the way back around to my 20th high school reunion.

reuThis is one happy group of people. 

So in this nightmare, it was weird- as most dreams are. I didn’t have my kids or my husband. I did, however, have friends and faces around me that I knew from high school. I was visiting Michigan- and soon after my arrival I was bitten by some sort of spider. This particular spider bite was fatal and there was no known cure. I sobbed after receiving the diagnosis. I decided I needed to move back (?) to Michigan to simply be left to die. But I didn’t want to- I felt like giving up was robbery. I had two years and that was it.

Like most dreams, this one didn’t make much sense and I am obviously leaving out huge gaps as they’re details which just go on and on and on. But once I (thankfully) woke up I knew where this nightmare had sprung- basically it’s from someone in my class who is living in a sort of nightmare and I had the chance to talk to her at my reunion. I’ll get back to her specifically in a minute, so just stick with me.

Ok, and so the reunion. It was awesome. All previous complaints aside (price, location, lack of a diverse committee, etc) the people there were what mattered most.  The people who I talked to, bumped into at the bar (possibly literally), or inadvertently sat next to at dinner all made the night (and entire trip) worth it. I played it safe and stuck with red wine, which turned out to be a good call since you can’t gulp wine in between conversations (well, maybe you can but on this occasion I did not) and I never lost control or felt like I wasn’t going to be able to recall my random conversations from the ladies’ room to the parking lot (don’t ask).

I found people from my kindergarten class- and we had a group photo together. I found one of my first friends from early elementary school (who isn’t on Facebook) and we laughed over how long it had been- and she told me every year on my birthday she thought of me. I told her I remembered her chocolate lab Cocoa whenever I saw one. It was simple, and nice. Rinse, repeat- this happened over and over. Not just for me- but by the tone of the room I could sense these connections happening all over with so many other conversations.

I flitted around, listened as to how so and so became a nurse, traveled the world, had kids, stuck around Brighton, etc. Some looked a little more mature, all of us a little ‘puffier’ than we used to be, but by no means was there a single second I didn’t want to be there or feel like I didn’t fit in. Some people confessed that they had gotten divorced- or maybe lost this dream or that, but it didn’t matter. We’ve all been there at some point or another and failed along the way. That’s life. It happens. Those ‘failures’ are opportunities to learn and regroup. I think by 20 years later we all knew that. Stupid stuff like that doesn’t matter two decades after the fact.

One of the most successful people I spoke with that night was someone I didn’t know very well in high school. He joked that he was known as being someone who would end up in jail. Ha! He is a successful businessman who travels all over Europe. He works all of the time and his family is his career. He’s happy. And wow- was I happy for him.

I had conversations all night long like this- people told me what was new, what was old- and what they were hoping for. I confess a time or two it took me a minute to realize who I was speaking with (wear your name tag!), but still my face hurt from smiling and laughing. I hugged many and loved it. I sought out people who I might not had been bffs with in high school- but I knew them. We shared a past. I wanted to know what happened to them, after. We did all keep going ‘Wow. Twenty years, eh? Are we really that old?’.

It wasn’t until the night wound down that I finally had the opportunity to speak to someone who was on my ‘must see list’. I waited until I was brave enough to talk to her (i.e. wine)- and went for it. I knew Sarah for a long time, we were classmate-friends. She was in my English classes and we didn’t travel in the same social circles back then- but when all of this reunion talk started on FB over a year ago I learned more about her story. I was soon added to a group supporting her. She’s my age, a mom of two little boys, and has a very aggressive cancer. She’s endured stressful surgeries, chemotherapy, and some very close calls. I’ve followed from a distance- because in all honesty it’s very difficult for my mind to wander to the ‘what if that was me?’ place.

I saw her over by a table and just said ‘Hey, I’m so glad I’ve gotten to see you. I’m so glad you’re here. I wanted to tell you what an inspiration you are to me.’ And we chatted. I asked her questions I am sure some people are afraid to ask. Probably because they don’t want to know, or imagine that happening to them. And she told me that she HAS experienced that sort of reaction in a way- as some people have had to pull back from her, as it’s all too painful to imagine. I was stunned. Amazed. Ashamed. She told me that she learned to say ‘Screw it.’ And live life. Go on vacation. Let the kids stay up a little late. Sneak out for ice cream. Break the rules.

So while yes, I had a wonderful time catching up with people from my 20th high school reunion- it was conversations like this one with Sarah that really moved me the most. We’re all just people, my friends. We all have stories that CANNOT be completely told on Facebook. You can sit there from behind your screen and ‘like’ and comment all day long, but that is NOT the same thing as hearing someone tell you a story like this to your face, looking into their eyes and feeling your own mortality. Nothing technology can create will ever be able to do that. Nothing.

So what did I learn? Well, coming back full circle to that bizarro dream that I started with from last night- I learned that life is shorter than we thought. We are offered no guarantees. Life isn’t fair, and you have no say as to the hand you are given in a case like this. Be grateful and be happy for what you have. Don’t wish your life away or be ashamed at your lot in life. Reach out to others and remember that the world does not revolve around you. And please, just GO. Go to your reunion and learn a thing or two.

I realize these aren’t breaking news revelations. But sometimes with technology we read stuff and forget about the human component. Pretty simple, eh?

*There is talk of our next reunion, which many who didn’t attend expressed an interest in attending after our FB group was flooded with the photos from the night. Overall, a success and thank you to the great class of BHS 1994 for so many memories- new and old.

Photo credit J.D form our FB group.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 farrah August 14, 2014 at 7:57 am

Just to add as a PS:

1) My tip is to leave your date or spouse at home. It would have been hard for me to not worry about him being bored, etc.
2) Even if you think your reunion will be small (we had 57 classmates from a class of 365) there were still so many others I didn’t get a chance to speak with, and regret missing. I honestly can’t even imagine it much bigger as before we knew it we were being kicked out at 11pm!

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2 Leighann August 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm

sounds like it was an amazing night. I don’t know if my school does reunions.. I’m not sure if I would go or not.

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3 farrah August 16, 2014 at 7:54 am

Interesting- why not?

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4 Amy August 15, 2014 at 5:04 am

Hooray! So glad you went and enjoyed it. Three cheers for the stories not told on Facebook.

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5 farrah August 16, 2014 at 7:55 am

I did, it was wonderful- I’m glad you were a voice of positivity in it even though you didn’t go!

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