As my 49th birthday faded into the past I began with trepidation to gear-up for my next big milestone birthday just around the corner ‒ 50th. That marked the start of an extended midlife crisis that, some three years later, has not entirely passed. One way I’ve been facing this transitional stage is to seek out meaningful and impactful initiatives. Here is the story of one such project. Reluctantly, and pretty much by default, I agreed to spearhead my 35th high school reunion.
The first step was to solidify a viable committee or at least one committed co-chair. Following some heavy-duty persuasion (ok, some pleading), a firm partnership was formed. The co-chair volunteer was a former high school friend, albeit someone with whom I had not been in touch with for 35 years. But this was true of many of my high school friendships, because after I graduated, I moved away from my hometown (just as so many of my classmate dispersed); my former classmates and I all got busy, and life got in the way.
Confession: I never wanted to take on the reunion project. I had hoped that someone else would assume the lead. But after more than three decades had passed, a reunion had never materialized. To be honest, I am not sure what compelled me to reunite with my high school classmates. Yet some unnamed force propelled me forward.
From the outset, I was excited about leading the memorabilia committee. My parents still live in my childhood home. While visiting them, I had uncovered a heap of faded photos, creative scrapbooks, signed yearbooks, and assorted nostalgic paraphernalia. Included in this time capsule from 1977-81: the original graduation program (including names of the entire faculty and award-winning students), admission tickets and flyers to the annual fashion show, handmade student council posters, colourful carnival week pins and handwritten report cards.
The reunion took place last September. Once added wrinkles, thinner hairlines, and thicker waistlines were observed, we moved on from the superficial to making more significant connections. Plenty of hugs and smiles and laughs and memories were shared by all.
After the reunion weekend a chain of heartfelt emails was circulated and some classmates contacted me privately. One by one, those who had attended expressed gratitude and conveyed how meaningful it was for them to reconnect with their longtime ago classmates. For me that made everything worthwhile.
An open letter to my classmates:
I’m glad I was able to have a hand in organizing an experience that so many of you found meaningful. I guess that was always the ultimate goal and the enigmatic force that guided me all along.
Undeniably, there was a sense of sincerity and authenticity in the air during our 35th high school reunion weekend. Decade-old secrets, jokes, highlights, and lowlights were remembered and retold. Friendships were rekindled, memories shared, and even some new bonds forged. Of course, it is surreal to think that, in what seemed like just yesterday, we were 17; now, in the blink of an eye, many of us have kids older than that. Isn’t it funny, as young high school graduates poised to enter the world we thought we knew almost everything and now, more than three decades later we question, what do we really know for certain?
Here’s my takeaway:
Days become weeks become months and years and then decades. Time races and it seems as though everything and everyone is grabbing for our time and attention. We live in a rapidly changing world of uncertainty and urgency. What a pleasure it was to take a few hours over the reunion weekend to look back and to enjoy the present moment. We talked, reminisced, laughed, ate, and drank together (and as everyone witnessed, I also cried). For a few hours, it felt as though we were suspended in time — a rare and welcome opportunity as we find ourselves in the midst of our new realities incumbent in middle age.
The world has changed so much since our youth; perhaps we too have evolved. Yet deep down inside each of us there is a yearning voice of idealism that reminds us to stay connected, and to be true to ourselves, and our core values. Our personal histories and our heritage contribute significantly to who we have become and ultimately to the legacies we want to create.
And then of course there are a myriad of variables that contribute to our journey: demographics, circumstances, chance, and perhaps destiny. Possibly, this reunion gave us pause to reconnect, reflect, and ponder: Where did we come from? Where are we now? And where are we going?
Whatever the future holds, I have safely stored my bag stuffed with sentimental high school memorabilia for any opportunity we might have to get together again sometime in the future — wherever and whenever that reunion might be.
Of course in the meantime, we can remain connected on Facebook, FaceTime, Instagram and any other social media app we can learn to navigate (with the help of our Millennial offspring). Indeed, we are a wonderful, talented, ambitious and supportive network linked by social media and by a shared formative experience. Isn’t that what old friends are for?
My desktop now includes an added contact list: high school alumni network. I know it’s there, for whenever I might need it: a friendly face in Montreal, NYC, Boston, Hong Kong or Israel; what’s more, trustworthy professional contacts for myself, or for my family. Isn’t that what old friends are for?
P.S. In keeping with accessing my newly formed high school alumni network – I was fortunate to have this post reviewed by a senior editor of a chic NYC magazine. Now that is definitely what friends are for!