Then and Now

Do you go to your high school reunions? I have missed a few, but I usually go and I’m not at all sure why. I guess in some ways it’s an affirmation that my life turned out okay after all.

I am comfortable with myself and the life I have. No – not everything is perfect in this life. But it’s okay. I have a great family that I am extremely proud of. My career is alright. And my health is mostly decent. Nothing about this life is ostentatious. It’s all modest, but meaningful. And at age 55 that’s all just fine with me.

High school was a challenge for me. Academically I was fine, but socially I struggled a bit. In my first years of high school I was your basic wallflower. I was not involved in many extracurricular activities.  I was that nerdy girl who dabbled in Debate Club – for real – and was never very good at it. Looking back on it, it’s actually pretty funny that I have made a career out of public speaking over the past 35 years.

Top:  Four best friends in high school Bottom:  Missing one, but we don't look too bad for grownups

Top: Four best friends in high school
Bottom: Missing one, but we don’t look too bad for grownups

During the second half of high school I came out of that shell a bit. I was in a play and I got a part time job after school, and both of those things helped me to open up a bit. I made more friends, and went to more parties, and started dating.

I have never been a social butterfly. Don’t get me wrong – I love spending time with people I know and care for. I have fabulous friends! But I have never been good at small talk and am truly still an introvert. Somewhere deep within me will always live that four year old who cried because she had to go to nursery school, and the ten year old who lived so much in the world of the fiction books she loved that her mother had to admonish her to “put that book down and go outside and play” on a nice day. More often than not I took the book with me outside.

But here comes another reunion. It’s a multi-class reunion from my high school, and the real draw for me this time is the hope of seeing some of the people I truly liked who did not graduate in my class. In fact, this reunion is spanning two decades worth of classes, and I fully expect there will be a lot of people there with whom I have no connection. Or if I do, it’s because of connections we have made in the community and outside of the school walls. But with over 500 people set to attend, I am certain there will be at least a few people that I know and remember.

So I will go, with one of my longest (not oldest) friends and our husbands. My friend and I agreed that we look pretty good for our ages, and here in our mid 50’s it doesn’t really matter all that much. We are comfortable with the people we are now, and we hope to reconnect with some people who may have been part of our history.

Reunions are more daunting before you turn 40. That’s when the expectations are higher: you expect that everyone will look great and will have hit their career stride and will have a perfect family life. If anyone else has judged me, then so be it. I can’t stop them and I don’t care, and now in my mid 50’s I know the truth:  the only expectations ever have been inside my own head. Well past the wallflower stage, I now represent the total of my experiences over a pretty well-lived life.

So I look forward to seeing old friends at the reunion this week, with no stress, no judgment, and no expectations; just a walk down memory lane and a good time.

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