I’m not going.
This was my immediate response to the post on Facebook inviting me to my 30th high school reunion.
I have too much going on.
Financially things are weird right now.
I already know what’s going on with people through Facebook.
Then, I got a message that my best friend from high school was coming in for the weekend from New Hampshire, and she had a hotel room where I could crash. I started waffling a little. It would be great to see my friend, whom I hadn’t seen in 16 years.
Responses to the post kept coming in, and people were traveling from all over—including Australia—to attend. My two-hour drive was seeming smaller and smaller.
I went to a small college prep school with a graduating class of around 60. My fellow classmates are doctors, lawyers, CPA’s, nurses, educators, publishers, business owners and on and on. I am close to 48, have a struggling gym I am trying to sell and a yet another new career as a life coach. I tend to reinvent myself every few years career-wise, but this one does “feel” the best.
I mentioned the reunion to my daughter and told her I didn’t want to go, even though people I wanted to see would be there. She asked me why, and from what seemed like my soul came these more congruent, authentic answers:
Everyone in my class is more successful than me.
My whole life is in transition with the start of a new career.
I have been divorced and widowed and have no “stable” relationship.
I am not where I wanted to be in my life, where I visualized I would by now.
With little pause, my 17-year-old gave me one of the best pep talks imaginable. She talked to me about my resilience as a widow, my personal growth over the past two years, my courage to start a new career and let go of my perceived responsibility to my deceased husband’s dream of owning a gym. She told me how proud she was of me, and added something she knew would push me over the edge:
“You will regret it if you don’t go, like you ran away from something.”
I wish I could say that I jumped in my car on Friday with no reservations or doubts, but that would be a total fabrication. Now I was in search of the perfect thing to wear, like somehow that would be the armor that I could wear to march into this battle. I looked at store after store. I even thought about stopping and having my makeup done, hair extensions at a kiosk—what could go wrong there?
After literally hours and one last look for something, still trying to talk myself out of going, I finally decided that the jeans I was already wearing and an old standby top I had in my suitcase would have to do. I was supposed to meet one of my classmates and friends that I been in contact with for a cocktail and a snack in 30 minutes, so I had to get changed. My friend wasn’t checked into the hotel yet, so I changed shirts, freshened up my makeup and did my hair in my car at an isolated side of the Babies-R-Us parking lot. (Obviously my problem solving skills were greatly compromised.)
There were some touching moments that evening, like when our host introduced me to his wife as the first girl he had ever kissed, and when many told stories about teachers and other people we knew who had passed away or were struggling. There were many more hysterical stories about bailouts from jail at the beach, high school nicknames, class slogans, and a totally bizarre conversation about scrotal rejuvenation.
I laughed so much my face hurt, and that alone would have made it worth it. But as is often the case in my life, there was a lesson. As the night wound down, someone asked if anyone had been nervous about coming for the weekend. At first, I thought I would say something dismissive, but in my new life commitment to being vulnerable and authentic, I spilled all my insecurities and struggles about the weekend as well as my experiences trying to find the perfect thing to wear. (I even told them about changing in the car.)
Then, feeling the shame of all that lack of independence and confidence, I sat there with my face probably as red as my shirt. One of the doctors, a brilliant, witty man whom I assumed had all his proverbial sh*t together, said sarcastically, “Yeah, I should put together a powerpoint presentation of how flawless my life has gone.” At that moment, I felt such a huge shift in my feelings about the weekend and myself in general.
I realized that I had some blueprint for how my life was supposed to be that surfaced in response to facing people who were my equals at age 18. In the light of my current life circumstances, I felt less than. When I was embraced for who I am now—not who I was “supposed” to be—I realized that nobody else shared my blueprint. I had not failed to measure up to anyone’s standard but my own, and my definition of success was the only one causing suffering.
I had just written an article proclaiming life was not pass/fail, but I still had my measuring stick out.
Most of us have blueprints in our heads about how all aspects in our lives are supposed to play out. Some we created, and some we borrowed from society, but we evaluate our lives against them. When I think that fear almost kept me away from such an enjoyable, recharging weekend, I am even more committed to developing more awareness of the stories I’m telling myself and changing them where appropriate.
The takeaways that I want to share are:
1. Be aware of your blueprints—and that you have the power to change them.
2. Don’t sell the generosity and acceptance of others short.
3. Embrace vulnerability, and it will serve you.
4. Don’t miss opportunities for laughter and joy due to fear and self-judgment.
The great thing about being around my high school friends, besides all the laughter and memories, is I got to reconnect with my 18-year-old self—not measured against the rigid plans I had for her, but who she really was:
Part of a great tribe.
I am much the same as her, just a little wiser and more worn—but with better skills and a stronger commitment to boldly navigate the waters ahead of me.
For my classmates, “The Class of ’86, the class that really kicks!” (Before you judge this slogan, you try to rhyme with “six” without using the word chicks, picks or d*cks.)
Author: Lisa Foreman
Image: Matthew Oliphant/Flickr
Editor: Toby Israel