Sunday, October 6, 2013

20 Years: Lessons Learned

My 20 year high school reunion was this past weekend.  There were a few events at the school and then an "after party" at a local bar.

Most of these classmates are people that I haven't spoken with in 20 years.

You might recall that I did have some anxiety about my reunion - fears that I was remembered as the "crazy one" in our class.

Something really interesting happened.

No one remembered.  Or if they did, it wasn't brought up.  The subject of my particular experience with our senior year came up twice.  And both times the repsonse was - "Oh my gosh! That's right! You weren't there, were you?"

I guess I could have been offended.

But a conversation I had with another alumni before the events really kicked off (he had graduated 10 years before me) helped me to see this important lesson.

As teens, even though we gossip and say things about each other, even though we may have had disagreements in the hallway or not invited people to our parties...

We were all in the midst of our own angst, we each had our own trauma, we were each dealing with life.

And we didn't necessarily share that with everyone else.  And if we did share - some of us were so locked up in our own angst that we didn't even hear other people.

I know of a small handful of classmates who didn't come to the reunion specifically because of their feelings about high school.  I have to admit that I considered not going because of my own fears.  But like most things in life, when I face it head on, those fears usually prove to be stuff that is just made up in my head.  Because fear and anxiety and worry have a way of creating an alternate universe in our minds, don't they?

The other thing that I found fascinating was that there were classmates there that I didn't particuarly hang out with when we were in school... but I think if I lived near them now, we could be friends.  And that kinda blows my mind, too.

I went to a school were most of the families were wealthy.  Not all.  Many of us were there under different circumstances.Some who were there on scholarship, some there at the sacrifice and scraping of their parents, and some for whom the tuition was barely a blip in the check book.

I often felt like I didn't belong with the people I saw as wealthy.  It's been this issue I've always had.  I'm not comfortable in situations where things are very posh and lots of money is at play.  I grew up a poor kid in Kentucky- that is the only thing I can lean on to understand.

And now here I was... feeling totally comfortable with every single person in that room.  It was great to swap a few old stories and memories but we all mostly spent time catching up and talking about our families and our work and where we live.

Are people acting differently than they did then?  Probably.  Has my perspective on people changed? Absolutely.  I was a judgement filled teen - judging others and myself very harshly.  It was a defense tactic, I suppose.  To keep people at arm's length, not let them get too close.

And in the last 20 years, I've been a constant improvement project.  Now a group of people aren't a group for me to judge.  Now I see children of God, beloved creations.  I see people who are just like me.

So the most basic things I can tell you in the immediate aftermath of my 20 year high school reunion...

1. Everyone was caught up in their own drama and may not even remember yours.
2. We all change and grow. So give people a chance to show you who they are.



Momza said...

You know, I am nothing like I was in high school--besides being a twig back then, I was also painfully shy. I doubt anyone would even recognize me even if I looked exactly the same! At 17, I was still unsure of who I was or what I wanted to be...I am happy to report my life is much more exciting than I ever thought possible and I am stronger because of it. GO and have a great time!

Unknown said...

I'm glad that the reunion turned out better than you had expected and I'm so glad you went and faced it head on! Your friend is spot on...everyone at that age is dealing with their own issues and most are so self-centered they don't see what's going on outside of their own drama. I'm glad I'm not a teen!

Karen M. Peterson said...

This post might very well have convinced me to go to my own 20th reunion next year.

I'm glad it was a good experience for you. Those are some really great insights you had about how we all used to be angsty, judgey kids and now most of us have grown up and turned a little more outward.

Crystal said...

So glad you had a good experience. Isn't it funny how we keep learning and growing, long after school is over and done? :)

Amy said...

As the mother of a high schooler, this is a good reminder for me and some wisdom I will probably pull out to share with my kids.