I hear this all the time from people: ” I hated high school. It was the worst time of my life. My past is in the past”. I, too was one of these people for many years. Many people I know stopped going to these events after ten years, because people never change, and nothing about it seemed fun anymore. I can understand this, but as a look back upon the twenty years where I did not attend a reunion, I realize that at least in my world things became better as I aged. I waited twenty years not knowing what to expect, and when I arrived at my twentieth reunion five years ago, I saw people who were exactly what I was… older, late thirties people who were just now getting their lives figured out. At least some of us.
For once it seemed that I was looking upon a group not divided by who was with which clique and who had what, but with real people with problems. Not all of the people I encountered lived a glamorous life. Many of us were divorced, had kids, or just didn’t quite do what they said they would do when they graduated. A strange thing settled among all of us; and this “thing” was called life. High school was just one of those life-forming stages in which each of us took something, and made it into the person that we are today. It is hard to see when you are growing up and beyond the “worst time of your life”, but I feel that what happened to me in those four years with this group of people may have been the best time of my life.
For example: I had no bills to pay. My parents gave me gas money when I needed it. I could borrow the car to go where I wanted and I didn’t have a car payment. I went to the movies, out to eat, football games, dressed in whatever I liked, and above all I was skinnier. Most people do find that once you are out on your own, life does get harder. All of a sudden you have to depend on you, and its not as easy as it seems. But, most people survive it just fine, and it comes down to what you did learn as you were growing up. Those people you hated way back when formed you into who you are by teaching you what you didn’t want to do. Believe it or not, that may have been the best lesson that life ever gave you.
At my twenty-fifth reunion, we had lost three more classmates. We were now in our forties, and suddenly life seemed to be creeping up on us. I still went to this reunion though it was poorly attended, and I will continue to go to them every five years until I draw my last breath. Why would I, Cindi, even do this when high school was “the worst time I ever had”? It is because I have come to realize how precious life can be. Each of the people I knew at the last reunion five years ago, and the one that I just attended made me realize just who I am. I am one of the few that has grown beyond the clique, and beyond the reasons to dislike someone. I believe that every person you know is meant to be there for a reason, and when I go to these events it offers me time for reflection on that silly little awkward person I was, and makes me realize that maybe, just maybe, I have blossomed. Some do this in high school, but sometimes it takes us longer. I am one of those.
To my 1988 graduating class: Thank you. You have no idea how much you have formed me into who I am, and I thank you for that. I hope also, that in some small way, I have touched your life also. Be sure to keep in touch, because you never know what life will bring.