My iPhone read 5:51 p.m. as I stripped off my royal blue top in favor of a white and silver striped one and pulled on black capris in place of a dark denim skirt. It was one of more than a dozen wardrobe changes in about twenty minutes and it left me wishing that I had brought more options with me from Chicago. The two dresses, two skirts and half a dozen tops just weren’t enough to choose from as I prepared to go to my twentieth (gulp!) high school reunion. And as soon as I walked into Washington Square Bar & Grill a half hour later, I was regretting that I left my royal blue shift dress hanging in my closet in Chicago.
Some things never change and unfortunately, my lack of good fashion sense is one of them.
Despite my regret about my wardrobe choices, the evening got off to a good start (although I did accidentally blow off a group of fellow classmates on my way in because I didn’t recognize them. Oops). Dinner with several other women in my class broke the ice and eased nerves (as did the two glasses of wine that came with dinner!). Once we finally made our way over to the main event, though, the evening was a blur. There were more than 500 people in my graduating class and word on the street is that more than 200 may have attended the reunion.
In some ways, it was like high school all over again. Many people seemed to fall easily back into the same cliques, standing around in the same circles that they stood in at high school dances twenty years ago. I bounced from group to group, much as I did in high school, not really having a single solid group of friends like so many others did. And the people who intimidated me way back then still conjured a sense of awkwardness and insecurity (it’s amazing how you just never forget the people who made fun of your acne in 8th grade gym class!).
It also felt like we were back in high school because so many people – especially the women – looked so much the same! Despite twenty years and, for some, multiple kids, many looked just as good as or better than they did in high school. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous. Despite my running and hiking and marathon training, I’m still a good 30 pounds heavier than I was back then and the extra pounds don’t seem to want to go anywhere any time soon. On the other hand, the guys were a bit less recognizable, many with thinner hair and wider belts (like I should talk!). The consensus seemed to be that this was entirely normal and that by our thirty-year reunion, it would all even out.
And while every single girl who has watched a few too many rom-coms secretly hopes she’ll attend her reunion and embark on a storybook romance with that cute guy she never had the nerve to talk to in high school, I was not destined to be that girl. My high school insecurities overtook me and I barely talked to any guy there, much less any who may have been cute and single (although my stealth pre-event Facebook research revealed that about 99.5% of those attending were married anyway).
Conversations ran the gamut, from poignant and sincere to horribly fake, with a little of everything in between. Friends have faced medical challenges and gone through divorces – one even changed her sexual orientation. Classmates who I thought were destined for great things didn’t quite live up to expectations and others have made life choices that I just never could have predicted. People reminisced about things that I couldn’t remember at all (Phil from volleyball? Still can’t picture him!) or other moments I’d rather forget (like Senior Prom and most of the ten-year reunion!). Some of my favorite conversations – about running or travel, of course – were with people that I was never even close to in high school. I look back on those conversations and wish I would have made more of an effort to talk to people I never knew before, in hopes of discovering more of those connections.
I realized how many friendships I lost over the years that I wish I would have fought to hold onto – I drifted from so many people between junior high and high school for reasons I don’t even recall and I enjoyed talking with some of those people the most. I questioned other friendships as people I once considered close friends seemed to treat me with almost a mocking disdain (I would blame it on the alcohol but that’s when your true colors show through sometimes, right?). Those conversations couldn’t end fast enough. More than anything, I left appreciating those who have stood by me for more than twenty years more than ever before. There’s nothing like the friends you can see for the first time in years and pick up right where you left off.
I was also really touched by how many people mentioned that they followed my travels or read this blog – so much so that I really didn’t know what to say as many of you told me how impressed you are or that you live vicariously through me. It means a lot and I wish I could have expressed that better in the moment.
Facebook chatter the next day threw around the idea of trying to get 300 of us together in five years for our 25th reunion. I’m kind of already looking forward to it, but I hope to see many people much, much sooner!
Have you been to your high school reunion? How did it go?