Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I changed my mind and attended my high school reunion, and it was ...

A few months ago I wrote that I probably wouldn't attend my high school reunion. But something kept niggling in the back of my mind telling me that I ought to go to the reunion anyway. That thought persisted until I finally started giving it serious consideration.

After pondering the matter, I realized that I was mostly concerned about trying to fit into the same social structures that existed decades ago when we were all kids. I was worried about what others might think about me. In other words, I was making the reunion all about me.

The rational part of me long ago realized that making myself the center of matters is a sure fire way to achieve unhappiness. We are happiest when we reduce selfishness and increase care and concern for others. This doesn't mean that we don't engage in proper self care. After all, your ability to serve others is directly proportionate to your capacity to do so. I'm talking about a healthy balance between regard for self and for others.

My focus changed as I thought about the reunion being a platform for serving others, allowing me to commit to attend. My wife was happy to attend with me. She enjoys that kind of sociality more than I do.

There were 499 in my graduating class. After all these years, about a quarter of those came to the reunion, many with a spouse or a friend in tow. The event was held at the high school where we attended. We still live in the same community. Our four sons have attended that school, as will our daughter. I am currently involved in a community event that has included many meetings at the high school. It's a very familiar place to me, so I wasn't uncomfortable at all.

It was remarkable how many people were easily recognizable even before seeing their name tags. There were still quite a few who I would not have recognized had I not seen their name tags. It didn't take me long to discover that none of the people I used to hang out with showed up. No matter. I found plenty of people with whom to touch base.

Interestingly, there didn't seem to be much concern about social status. I suspect you see a lot more of that kind of thing 10 and 20 years after graduation. Four decades out people didn't seem to care much about it. They just wanted to connect with others who had some kind of common background.

We ended up sitting at a table with three classmates I knew but had never hung out with during high school. We had run in different social circles and hadn't interacted with each other much back in those days. My wife and I still had a great time them and their spouses.

A display had been arranged showing obituaries of class members who had passed away. I had known of about half of those deaths. While it was sad, the death rate was very close to average for our age demographic. So it was about what could be expected. I suppose that means that there will be a lot more of those in 10 years at the next reunion.

Our senior class president had prepared a number of memories. He also invited anyone who wished to share memories. Some were funny and some were tender. But all in all, quite enjoyable. He noted the couples who had been married nearly as long as we have been graduated. Two of my classmates each had 10 children. One classmate had 28 grandchildren. Wow. It looks like my wife and I are still years away from having grandchildren. A surprising number of classmates came from out of state.

At the end of the evening we gathered on the front steps of the school for a photo op. Many lingered to chat more afterward, as if they didn't want to leave. The Lord willing, I will see many of them again in 10 years. Best of luck to each in the interim.