20 Years and Counting…

What My 20th High School Reunion Taught Me About Myself

There are many milestones in life. High school graduation, marriage, children, divorce, deaths, and other similar events act as mile markers on the trail of life. I look back at these events, not only to see where I am now in relation to them but also to reflect on the differences in my thoughts and attitudes in life since then.

On 11/25/22 I attended my 20th high school reunion. I did not attend my 10-year as I had not grown enough as a person or dealt with the trauma, both self-imposed and externally-imposed, I experienced during my high school years. But, I’ve done a lot of self-work, especially since August 2020, and I decided it would be a right of passage and a test of who I am today to go.

The first thing that surprised me was that I could recognize faces, but not names. There were maybe five former classmates I recognized and could tie a name to. It also didn’t help that I didn’t connect well with others in high school and haven’t spoken with most of my classmates in the past 20 years.

I was happy that I felt comfortable talking with nearly everyone. I spent a good amount of time chatting with a person I wouldn’t have even approached for a conversation back in high school, and it turned out he has some pretty interesting things going on in his life. I had more in common with him now than I ever would have imagined in my previous academic life.

Man sitting on a tree stump looking thoughtful with a sapling growing to the right of him.

The biggest thing I confirmed during the reunion was how much my own thoughts about myself and my anxiety drove my actions in high school. I truly believed that others saw me as annoying, a know-it-all, a kiss-ass, and an outsider.

However, when I spoke to my former classmates, few of them remembered that about me. I remember the reinforcing events that made me FEEL that way at the time, but overall, I confirmed that at least half of my social issues growing up was me reading my own insecurities into others.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered that a lot of my issues in life were tied to feelings of inadequacy and fears of social isolation. I acted the way I did so that I felt part of something bigger, regardless of what “bigger” meant. Sometimes bigger meant being the most die-hard religious fanatic I could be. Other times bigger meant proving to others how set apart from them I was and that I deserved their pity. Sometimes bigger meant trying to prove I was intellectually superior to people. But the fact is, I always COULD have been part of the real bigger picture without doing any of those things, just by being what I was most afraid of being, myself.

Twenty years go by in a flash. The days are long, but the years are short. I see myself and others through a different lens than I could have imagined in high school. My world has changed, and that is a good thing.

I’m glad I went to my reunion and hope that I will have the opportunity to reconnect with my former classmates more often in the future. It is amazing how connections and possible friendships can bloom from seeds buried deep in the ground for 20 years.

1 Comment