High school reunions cast new light on present

My five-year high school reunion was held this weekend, but I did not attend. Instead, a small group of old friends and I got together and reminisced about prom, graduation, the parties, our classmates, memorable teachers and former girl- and boyfriends. It was the best type of reunion I could have asked for – just eight friends sitting around at a bar, teaching me something about the future as we laughed about our past.

I had a good time in high school. A lot of people cringe when they think of those years, but even with its immature trials and tribulations, I enjoyed the experience. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine any of those people grown up. I know I have matured, but it’s hard to think that my classmates who were once obsessed with popularity, the latest trends, the math test, the breakup of that one-month relationship and food fights, could have grown up. Now some of them are married, have kids, are serving in the armed forces, work at real jobs or own homes.

But I haven’t done anything very obvious yet. I doubt many of my other former classmates have either. I graduated from college. But I don’t own a house, have a real job, have kids or have gotten married yet. I think after 10 years maybe I’ll have something more to show for myself. Otherwise, I wear glasses now, my hair is shorter and curlier, and I have had five years of good and bad experiences that have made me the person I am – too much to explain to people to whom I wasn’t very close in the first place.

I kept in touch with a handful of people from high school. Of my two best friends during those years, one is still my best friend and about to be the maid of honor in my wedding. The other I talk to a few times a year, but college forced us to grow far apart. I have a few friends whom I see during vacations and in the summer and a few more whom I e-mail occasionally.

So instead of the traditional reunion, a group of friends got together. I had maintained contact with most of them but hadn’t seen them all together since our high school graduation. We met at a bar and drank into the night – something we never would have done in those years. Our rowdiest high school memory was the night before graduation when we camped in a friend’s backyard and partied until the sun came up. Needless to say, most of us were half asleep or hung over during the next morning’s awards ceremony.

We are different. Two of us are openly gay; four have graduated college, three are still trying; one is returning to college after dropping out six months after graduating high school; one lives in Portland and two others in Wisconsin; one is getting married, another has hardly had a date in four years; one spent a summer in Ireland, another spent a week in the eating disorder ward of a hospital. Some are waiting for life to start, while others have been living for a while.

We talked about what we’d done since we saw each other last – traveled and worked, loved and lost, cried and laughed. We bragged of our proudest accomplishments and the most adventurous things we had done. As we talked past bar close, one friend leaned over to me and said, “You know, it feels just like old times … except it’s not. We’re all older, more mature and have many more stories to tell. But still, we get along like not a day has passed.”

And we didn’t want to it to end. With all of the good memories, reunions are just that. They’re not reality. They’re not your current life. They vault you back to a day when you had less worldly experience and hadn’t “found yourself” yet. But reunions can give a good perspective on your current life from that of your past.

I have spent much of my summer stressing out about what to do with myself now. Get a job, but which one? To what field should I lend my tales? Other adult responsibilities have crowded into my thoughts – especially saving money for all of those big, adult things one needs in the future, like a house or a better car.

But after spending several hours in the past this weekend, I was reminded of the innocence of high school. And I was reminded that life is a journey filled with bumps and bruises, but also with laughter and fun. No matter which path I choose or how much money I have saved, five years from now I will still have things I’m most proud of and stories of adventure. Life just rolls with the punches.

Now that’s my kind of high school reunion.

Erin Ghere welcomes
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