Wednesday, August 13, 2014

growing up - what I learned at my high school reunion

High school reunions are strange things.  You walk into a room full of people that you spent four entire years with, but most of whom you haven't seen in a decade.  Everyone looks nearly the same, and yet different.  I walked in to my ten-year high school reunion last weekend with certain expectations of how the night would go.  Some of it went as expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by other elements of the evening.  I learned a lot by spending four hours with my high school colleagues.

 Homecoming game senior year - if you're wondering what the huge ribbony things are, you aren't from Texas :)

I learned that any experience is what you make of it.  When we first arrived at the reunion, my girl friends and I stuck with each other and moved from person to person as a group.  After a little while, though, we all loosened up and launched off in various directions to chat with different people that we recognized.  Once that split happened, I felt like I was really able to enjoy the reunion by hopping from conversation to conversation and seeing as many old friends as I could.  I left the reunion happy with the experience and glad that I spoke with so many people.

There were definitely some groups of people there, though, that stuck to themselves.  They didn't want to step outside of their comfort zone to see if so-and-so recognized them.  I felt sorry for those people, since they paid money to come to the reunion but just to talk to the friends they speak with on a regular basis.  But that's what they made of it. 

Choir kids and more homecoming mums

I learned that people grow up.  (Well, most people.)  One of my girlfriends was a little anxious about the reunion.  She felt like people would remember her as only as certain person, and told me, "I just feel like I've mellowed out a lot since high school."  I responded, "I think all of us have."  Thinking back on this later, I think what we were really trying to say is that we've grown up. 

I was so pleasantly surprised to see that, while I was around those with whom I spent my adolescence, the drama and cattiness that typically comes with being adolescents had faded away.  While we are all still the same people, we are now grown-up versions of our high school selves, and act like it.  People seemed to be genuinely happy to see each other doing well, and wishing each other the best. 

Swimmers - some of my favorite swimming memories were with this crew!

Of course, there were a select few people who seemed like they hadn't changed a bit since high school.  I don't envy them.  High school was great, but you can't be a high schooler forever - no matter how cool you were back in the day.

I learned that it's okay to be proud of what you have accomplished.  At reunions, nearly every conversation begins the same way.  "So, what are you up to these days?"  It's a loaded question, but a necessary one since you haven't seen these people in years.  I struggled to answer it well at first, typically responding with, "Well, I'm an attorney, my husband is an attorney too, and we live in Indiana now.  How about you?"  When I gave this answer in front of my friend Erin, she jumped into the conversation - "Oh no, you don't understand, she's an amazing attorney and is a big deal and has worked on all of these big real estate deals... (etc etc etc)." 

While Erin may have been a little extra-zealous in her cheerleading of me, it really helped me come out of my shell and be proud of what I have worked so hard for over the past ten years.  From then on, I felt more comfortable sharing what I have been up to in my career thus far, and had more fun celebrating others' professional successes as well. 

Graduation Day

No matter what your career looks like, we've all done a lot with ourselves since high school.  And we should be proud of (and grateful for) the opportunities that God has provided in our lives.

I learned that some friendships will fade, but still last forever.  After high school, there were some friendships that I clung to tightly, and still do, ten years later.  There are others that pretty much ended when high school did.  And there were some that naturally faded away, but reuniting and catching up with those friends was like flashing back in time right to where we left off years ago.

I may not speak with those flashback friends for another ten years, but I do know that the next time I see them, we will pick up again right where we left off.  And that will be so fun.

New Orleans choir trip
I learned that you (yes, you!) are memorable.  One of my greatest fears going into the reunion was that people wouldn't remember me.  After all, it had been ten years since I saw most of them.  But I quickly realized that I was wrong.  People who I was sure wouldn't remember me came up to me exclaiming, "Hi, Amy!"  And I found myself remembering more people than I thought I would - if not names, definitely faces. 

It was so nice knowing that although I moved far away, I'm not forgotten. 

If you're afraid of attending any sort of event out of fear that people will not remember you, remind yourself that you are memorable.  People will be thrilled to see you.  And those who aren't (because there were some who didn't remember me as well), aren't worth your time anyway.

And lastly, I learned that I am still me.  And that's okay.  For the most part, I liked who I was in high school.  I was nicknamed "Bubbles" because I was so peppy all the time.  I was chatty, ultra-competitive, very social, a tad dramatic, a hopeless romantic and pretty idealistic.  I'm sure my naivety and never-ending optimism was annoying to some, but I didn't mind.  I was happy. 

My favorites.

In college over winter break, I had a high school friend tell me that she was glad that we were still friends.  When I asked her what she meant, she said that she didn't think we would stay friends after high school.  She didn't intend to be mean, but her comment really hurt me.  It made me feel like there was something wrong with my high school self.  Sure, I had mellowed out a bit in college, had got a little more lax with my life (which wasn't necessarily a good thing), but I still felt like in my core, I was still the same Amy that I was in high school. 

Life in my twenties has been a great experience.  I have learned a lot and grown immensely.  But life also throws lots of curveballs sometimes, and there was a period in my life where I felt like I had lost my sense of self.  This was due in part to my own response to what my friend said... trying to mold myself into a more "likeable" person... and due also to just some tough life circumstances.  I had lost the "Bubbles" in me.

I've been working hard to bring her back, and feel like she is making a comeback, as a grown-up version of Bubbles.  One that is still energetic, vivacious and warm, but maybe not quite as reckless or dramatic and instead more thoughtful and mature.  And I like how it feels, to have her back.

Sophomore year homecoming - and yet another mum. 
Being at the reunion was like re-uniting my grown up self with my high school self.  I felt like, as the night went on and I caught up with different classmates, my two selves flowed seamlessly together.  It filled me to the brim with joy.  Because that's who I am: Bubbles-Amy - the woman who loves high school reunions, sings show-tunes, still listens to Dashboard Confessional every once in a while just because, and who is learning how good it feels to just be herself.
It's amazing the things that you can learn by just one evening with old friends. 


  1. Aww I love this, Amy :) I love hearing from people's hearts and I feel like this really was. I had the same thoughts before my 10 year reunion though my class was probably smaller than yours. But yeah, I've become a lot more relaxed than I was in high school and I was afraid that people would treat me like that. I'm sure some still think it but I guess I just don't care anymore. Everyone was really nice of course!

    I'm so glad yours was fun and you got to catch up with so many people. And yay for being proud of your accomplishments! You have accomplished a lot and are awesome!

  2. So... I googled it and still don't really get what those big ribbon-ey things are. I guess I just am not from Texas. ;-)

  3. Lol, try clicking the link in the caption! In a nutshell, your homecoming date buys a mum for you that is personalized to reflect you and your date. Over the years mine had swimming and choir stuff, but also a cowbell and a bottle of bubbles. You wear it to school the day of the homecoming game and usually they are so heavy that you have to wear overalls or a jean jacket - otherwise you would rip any shirt you pin it to. They are quite the ordeal!

  4. Thanks so much Kelli! I'm glad you had fun at your reunion too! Funny how 10 years can really help people mellow out :)