Life Lessons from a High School Reunion

high school reunion nametag: life lessonsDid you enjoy high school? Were you one of the Jocks or the Brains or the Hotsy-Totsies? Or were you one of the Nerds or the Hoods or the Bums? Perhaps you were like me and didn’t fall into either category.

High school was not fun for me—and I had the undesirable experience of attending 2 high schools. It was difficult to be my own person with everyone attempting to place a label on me. As a result, I had no interest in attending reunions.

Until recently. I attended as my partner’s guest to his 40th high school reunion. As we drove to the reunion, I asked him how many true friends he had. His reply: very few. I asked: how many have you kept in touch with over the years? His reply: even fewer.

Upon attending the reunion, the crowded room of 100+ from a class of 320 now wrinkled, gray-haired, and slightly overweight men and women struggled more to recognize classmates than remembering which clique everyone belonged to. Back in the day, fraternizing with the wrong clique meant doom. Now the goal was to flashback to a perceived easier time of life.

Reunion Results–life lessons emerge

  • Graduates barely recognized each other—by face or by name. They relied more on where they lived in town, what grade school they attended, and what classes they possibly shared.
  • There were the occasional, “Oh, I remember you!” followed by, “Let’s connect on Facebook.”
  • Some admitted to avoiding those they hated in high school, but couldn’t remember why.
  • Most found high school to be highly stressful.
  • Upon graduation, everyone went their own way toward living their vision of the American Dream.
  • Many were happy with life. Those I spoke with admitted to be comfortable with who they were, preferring their current life with gray hair, wrinkles, and arthritis to puberty, acne, and peer pressure.
  • Cliques no longer mattered. We were all in our 50s, hoping to have enough money for retirement. None I spoke with were living or planning to live the dreamy retirement vision we were raised to strive for. What mattered most was to stay close to their roots and to enjoy their family.

Retirement Revelations

There were 3 types of current retirees:

  • Retired due to health issues, or
  • Age discrimination, or
  • Career limitations.

Given the choice, these graduates would have kept working. Because of where they find themselves now, many are uncertain what’s next for them. They all feel they are too young to ‘kick the bucket’. One graduate ‘fills his time’ restoring motorcycles and cars. Another graduate volunteers until she can find a job—in anything, she admits. My partner, disabled since 2015, enjoys tutoring, helping others organize their lives, and conducting administrative tasks, but doubts this is a viable money-making option for him.

Those that are working toward retirement want to ensure their future is secure in the midst of all the unknowns. Everyone I spoke with feared how long their health will hold up.

Quite a difference from our high school years!

While this reunion is one of thousands that occur across the country, we all share the same hopes, dreams, and fears. The peer pressure and cliques from the past no longer matter. What matters is that we are happy as we continue to live and to share our life with those we love.

How will you grow and live?

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

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