15 Learnings from My 30th High School Reunion
I remember sitting in my Economics college class listening to Professor Lary (sic) Taylor describe how he had just attended his high school reunion. Given my interest in human behavior, I was rapt with attention, as though I was hearing the words of a prophet prophesying my future. Indeed, many of his findings concurred with my own 30th high school reunion. I have starred (*) these six below.
First, I never intended to be the organizer for my reunion; that’s life for you. I had missed two earlier big markers of time. Namely, the 10th reunion was too close to my wedding to attend. And, my parents both died right before my 20th reunion, so I did not have the heart to attend. Losing my mother led me to want to have a “family reunion” with my community. The outcome resulted in planning the 30th to include anyone who lived in my hometown as a student in the 1980’s. And, so, my mission began.
Here are the 14 learnings I take away from this experience on 9.9.17:
- *Be Kind…you never know what someone is going through. The strangest guy in my graduating class ended up in San Quentin prison for pedophilia. As it turns out, he was sexually, verbally, and physically abused by his father since he was a toddler.
- *Entrepreneurialism Works. A couple of my schoolmates never went to college and are financially successful and self-taught. I never doubted it as possible, and it was rewarding to see it.
- Mama Mía. One of the absolute poorest schoolmates has become one of the most wealthy among us, both financially and spiritually. She adopted three children as a single mom.
- Generosity & Otherwise. In order to be inclusive to all I made the reunion entry a nominal $19.87. Three schoolmates made sizeable donations towards expenses, and several paid-it-forward on the entry. There were roughly a dozen who couldn’t comprehend why they should pay any amount, and a few dared to show up without paying (*freeriders).
- Bueller? Even a couple of “popular kids” were afraid to return; with some not coming at all. One schoolmate claimed to have to breathe in his car for 20 minutes before he could join in.
- *Sing “Memories,” Babs. A lot of people forgot a LOT of details from the past. For some, the fond memories got jogged back. For others, there was closure on lost loves and/or grievances. For all, the event felt like getting back in touch with one’s self, but a better version of one’s self.
- *Party on, Dude. The high school partiers are still the partiers. Despite being rabble-rousers, they are an inextricable ingredient to a lively reunion.
- I Did; I Do. The girls who experimented early (on a campus which imposed a double-standard) ended up being devoted, long-married women. Love, and let love.
- ‘80’s Medley. One of the great joys that added to the exponentially intense emotional highs was gathering with those schoolmates who preceded and succeeded us; not just one class, and not just for those who actually graduated. It was a true community event – one which even included parents.
- *Back in Time. Several of us described how incredibly unusual it was to hear the same voices and hear the same laughter after all these years, and be able to recognize them. This enabled us to “time travel” emotionally.
- Before & After. Having a slideshow of how we were “back then” and having the schoolmate stand next to his/her slide photo when their name was called proved to be very useful. Some I failed to recognize upon first sight, and others I didn’t know had shown up until they stepped up. Individual recognition among a group of classmates to the larger student body introduced a “Venn diagram” of connection which was palpable.
- Repetition & Resilience Pays. There were numerous monkey wrenches thrown at every facet of the event: from venue to cupcakes; the worst being no cell phone coverage. I determined the Rule of 7…if I haven’t communicated, like an advertisement, at least 7x, then I must hold only myself accountable.
- *Forever Young. We laughed; we cried. We lost 16 alumni in less than 35 years. Given the smallness of our alumni group, that averages to roughly 6% of our student population.
- Scathed. No one seemingly gets through the gauntlet of 30+ years of life past high school without some form of tragedy, trauma, or grief touching us. There were tales of divorce(s), jail, death(s) of loved ones, lost employment, financial ruin, illness, etc.
- Success Defined. It all depends on how one defines success, of course. I define it as balance. From my observations, it appears that the ones who have achieved the most balance in their lives are not necessarily the ones who earn the most money, or have the most education. It seems to be the ones who have successfully found the right partners, family, and/or friends to surround themselves with…constantly. Positive chemistry. That may sound like nothing new, yet, it is one thing to know it; and, quite another to witness it at this juncture in life and work, on such a grand scale.
I am grateful to have had my sons serve as volunteers at this event, simply for this last learning. The challenges of life are hard to face without the love and support of those who know you at your core. THIS is family.
I can cross this off my bucket list.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a proud member of the Class of 1987, Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com.
©Rossina Gil, 2017