The word “reunion” literally means “to bring together again.” But is there actual unity after the initial re-meeting? My wife Carol and I just attended our North Central High School reunion in Indianapolis, and I’m still energized from it. The shared educational experience so many years ago was not really a choice for us back then – we HAD to go to school. But this weekend, 225 classmates willfully chose to come together from all over the hemisphere to reconnect.
Maybe it’s because our “first” best friends were made during those formative years. You try so hard in high school to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life, and you’re surrounded by peers who are equally hopeful and insecure. There’s a special bond that emerges when you go through a thrilling or traumatic experience with others, and I think high school qualifies on both counts.
I also admit feeling a bit of plain old curiosity. I got to see how he or she “turned out.” Social status and external appearances were so important during teenage years, so I guess I couldn’t help making physical comparisons now. I wonder if I look older or younger than the majority? If you haven’t changed TOO much, you get the compliment of “Oh, you look exactly the same!” Well… I think I looked a little awkward in high school, so is that really a compliment?
This time I think it was the “internal appearances” that made the real impact on me. As I talked to each of my friends, shared a few embarrassing war stories, shared photos of our children (all about the same age) and talked about our careers, I felt a sense of unity that came from sheer survival. We’ve lived through triumph and tragedy. We’re old enough to know that learning who you are is a lifetime quest, not something you learn in college. And what you want to do with your life can change, several times, depending on circumstances and your will to follow your heart. I felt a kinship once again with people I have not seen or talked to in decades. Facebook has provided a virtual reunion of sorts the last few months, but there’s nothing like looking someone in the eye, getting a hug and celebrating our lives in person.
I saw guys who I thought would not survive their heavy partying looking quite healthy and happy now. I heard about a few friends who are sadly no longer with us. I heard about our former class president who is now Chief of Staff for VP Joe Biden. We are manufacturing reps and marketing execs, comedians and company owners, doctors and decorated soldiers, lawyers and lobbyists, dental hygienists and disaster recovery specialists, attorneys and activists, mothers and fathers. We live in Alaska and the Virgin Islands. We live on the East coast and the West coast and in the Heartland in between. We are diversity and unity at the same time. We are the class of ’79.
Special thanks to the organizers of the event. This Panther appreciates you.