I recently sat on a conference call for the planning of my 20th high school year reunion. When you are pushing 40, it appears someone inevitably has a conference line and access code handy so this is how you do things. (I was kind of hoping we could all connect through three-way calling, but oh well.)
With a handful of former classmates, we discussed timing, location, activities and, most fun of all, who we thought would attend. We wagered our best guesses on how many of our peers would be interested in reconnecting and concluded that less people are excited about the 20th reunion than the 10th.
I agreed at the time, but after the call ended, many of my classmates started posting scanned pictures of our high school glory days on our newly-created reunion Facebook page. And I realized I’m actually looking forward to this go-round more than I was a decade ago. And here’s why:
The novelty is gone. For our 10-year reunion, a friend and I scoped out venues, met with catering directors and contemplated price quotes just like one does for a wedding. We had a DJ, though I don’t remember one person dancing. But all of that seems silly and unnecessary now.
We don’t need a fancy location, DJ or a weekend full of events. Who has the energy for all that? People just want to hang out, catch up, introduce their kids (then leave them at home for an adult dinner) and rehash embarrassing stories. The novelty of a high school reunion characterized the first one, and there was something special about that. But at 20 years, the frills are gone and it’s all about the people.
Speaking of those people, I don’t care as much what they think. And I think a lot of other people have let go of that worry too. The 10-year reunion is the one where all your questions will be answered about what happened to the popular girl or the guy you crushed on. It was like the great “Where Are They Now?” reveal, and while I didn’t think anyone was lying awake in bed at night wondering how I turned out, I still felt pressure to present a perfectly happy, successful, no-I-don’t-care-I’m-not-married (even though I desperately did) facade.
This time, I will be married, as well as a parent (and not saying one should be at a certain age or ever, just that it was important to me). But I’d like to think that even if I wasn’t, I would still approach this reunion with one of increased self-assurance and a genuine interest in letting people get to (re)know the real me. Or maybe I would have cried in the bathroom the whole time like I did at my senior prom. Hard to say.
Facebook. Social media pretty much takes the guess work out of my point above. You only have to scroll through your news feed to know what everyone in your high school (and 3rd grade) class is doing. Some friends use this as their excuse to not go — what’s the point if the great reveal has already been spoiled for you online?
But for me, it is the opposite. I feel more comfortable and connected with my classmates, as opposed to a room full of strangers you haven’t seen in 10, maybe 20 years. I don’t particularly like surprises, so the more prep work I can do, the better. Besides, think of all the pictures you will be tagged in and new friend requests you could accumulate!
I’m getting old. This is, at the heart of it, the biggest reason. As tumultuous as high school feels at the time (and for some people, it was a truly troubling and difficult period they might not want to revisit), it was by and large simple and carefree. I struggled at home and at school, but even the bigger problems seemed to ultimately rest on someone else’s shoulders. Now it’s all on us.
So any chance to return to a time that centered around hanging out with friends, spending late nights in the journalism room, and not paying rent is welcomed and appreciated. As is any opportunity to reconnect with those who knew you before you became stressed, scatterbrained, sleep-deprived and overly solicitous (actually I was probably all of these things in high school too). Nostalgia cuts deep the older you get.
As a planning committee, we still have many details left to finalize for our 20th reunion (namely, all of them). But the feedback I have received so far has been anticipation and excitement. It’s not to say everyone looks back on their high school days with fondness or that we are all at peace where we are currently, but the whole notion of reunions — uniting a group of people who once experienced a transformative part of life together — has a sweetness and sentimentality that only grows stronger with time.
P.S.: I wanted to include a picture of me from high school, but couldn’t find any of just myself. I realized that in this day of selfies, no one will ever have that problem again.