I went to my 40th high school reunion last weekend, and I’m so glad I did. I had a small and treasured group of friends in school, but over the years my peripatetic lifestyle had caused me to lose touch with them. When it dawned on me that our graduation digits were turning the Big 4-0, I decided to step on a plane and head from Los Angeles to Boston.
As anyone who has attended a major reunion for the first time already knows, it felt strange at first to suddenly reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in decades. I remembered us all as kids, but now we were all older adults. I had to quickly reconcile my memories of the past with the mature present. The gangly, shy boy I’d known is now the dapper periodontist; the former tom boy and gal pal is now the accomplished television professional.
|Getting my first wheels, circa ’73|
I think we attend reunions to reconnect, not just with others, but with a sense of ourselves from an earlier time. As I sat at the reunion table, I tried to remember what I was like in high school, what my ambitions had been back then. I remember that I loved English class, especially creative writing assignments. But I didn’t connect my vague enjoyment of writing with any notion of a future career. I come from a family of scientists and academicians. Our clan regards writing as a tool, not an aspiration. I thought the ambition of becoming a writer was only meant for the literati and artistes.
I wish I’d known when I was young that “real” people can become writers. It would have helped me get started earlier. So, here’s my advice to all the high school English teachers out there: invite a local novelist to speak about writing to your class. You might just be giving that quiet girl in the third row a vision of her future.
Question for you all: have you ever braved a high school reunion before? How did it go?
Update: I just added a picture of me “back in the day”–thanks to Jordan for the suggestion!