It’s hard not to feel some kind of reaction after reading a title like that. And rightfully so, because it’s a reminder of the four years when you endured life’s most intense (and uncomfortable) growth while being surrounded by other adolescents. And angsty teenagers are not known for their good track records as ambassadors of kindness and support to friends when awkwardness abounds. Nor do they practice the hallmarks of good decision-making, which means you may have fallen victim to a myriad of negative and likely embarrassing experiences during those high school years. So the thought of willfully gathering with that said group of people whom you roamed the halls with say five, fifteen or twenty-five years ago for the opportunity to exchange a few pleasantries and awkward hugs while checking name tags to avoid being rude and hoping that those in attendance are not secretly judging how you’ve aged and fared in life may not outweigh the idea of chilling at your home on a Friday night, post Thanksgiving holiday instead.
That is one perspective.
On the other hand, you may reflect on that “life’s most intense growth” time as something other than a personal version of hell. Hell, it could’ve been the best time of your life! You may be giddy with the thought of reconnecting in human, not social media form and feeling the energy of now mature (or not) adults who have evolved from their smaller-framed and smaller-minded forms. Maybe you anxiously await this infrequent event because it is your only chance to meet with some old classmates you were fond of, face to face. There is nothing quite like that. I mean, that is what life is for, to experience, bad OR good. And how could it be bad? It is not actual high school and you are contemplating all of this right now which means you’ve survived graduation. So get ready to reminisce! Or even better, discover the new aspects of your classmates. Chat with someone ‘new’, even though you’ve already both shared a momentous once in a lifetime experience together.
We are all bonded by this thing.
The concept of high school is absolutely crazy; putting dozens or hundreds of teenagers together in a building, their young brains developing at different rates leaving reason, impulses, consequences and thoughts of risk all out of balance. Growth spurts sprouting, pimples happening, physical appearances changing by the month and simultaneously “students” are expected to focus for hours each day and learn the essential building blocks of their education and life in order to become well-rounded adults. That is a tall order. I am no expert on anything teenager, high school, brain-development, education or psychology related. Nope. In a nutshell, I am a TV editor and live in a city with my husband and I enjoy cooking and, admittedly, the overarching feeling I get when I think about high school is positive. When the topic of high school comes up I typically recall great times without hesitation. That is not to say I wasn’t bullied, gossiped about, dumped, cheated on or disliked; I suffered through all of that. When those things happened it was long-lasting agony that felt like every corner of the room was closing in on me to suffocate me with words and faces of hate, people who once liked me now hating my ugly face, big nose, frizzy hair and who I was, what I said, did and didn’t do. Maybe the bullying came in the form of being ignored. A smile isn’t returned by a friend, eyes dart the other direction when you walk into a room, backs are turned towards you while you hear the collective giggles of now two “friends” enjoying a secret conversation about your shortcomings as you nervously sweat and try not to puke as your stomach does a gymnastics routine inside your body. When the gossip spreads through the alliances, man that’s just hard to stop! You. Are. Powerless.
I think in high school it is the norm to conform. There are cliques, groups of like-minded people supporting each other and keeping commonalities, opinions, and ‘members’ within a loose border. But that paradigm is unconsciously put in place as a measure of security to protect those inside against the unknown. Teenagers are trying to find harmony among peers while living out the most uncertain and tumultuous time in their young lives. Not only are they dealing with all of that brain development stuff, but they are building friendships, relationships with the other sex, and oh, their egos. The truth is, no one at this age definitively knows what the hell they are doing or what real reality is anyway. So the routine goes; you find a cozy spot where you feel safe and roll with it maybe for a little while, maybe for four years. Anyone, and I mean anyone who dares to stand out during this time is truly, truly brave. The consequences could be isolation, ridicule or worse, you could be labelled. Those catchy terms are hard to forget and burn on the brain. Today, I would like to shake that ‘stand-out’ person’s hand.
But this was all part of the learning process, right?
Maybe you are like me and have a big reunion on the horizon. There may be an organized event scheduled inviting you to congregate with those familiar faces you used to sit next to and listen to boring lectures or shared sarcastic comments with long, long ago. You know their names, you’ve heard them during attendance, you’ve seen their pimples clear up, their braces come off (they’ve also seen yours) and notes and an eye-rolls have been exvhanged. What was the name of that dude who actually lit up a cigarette in class when the lights were off during a slideshow? How the hell did he not get caught? That was awesome. Whether you like it or not, you have bond with these human beings and whether you find that wonderful or dreadful is entirely your right. Instead of being legally forced to attend like high school (it’s the law) it’s your choice to attend your reunion. You will not be handed a demerit if you skip, but I’m sure you’d make someone’s day if you showed up.