I recently attended my 40th high school reunion. I've attended several earlier reunions and have always had a great time, but this one stood out for me. Maybe it's because 40 seems like such a big number, signifying that I would see huge changes in all of my old friends. Maybe it's due to a belief I held while still in high school that celebrating 40 years of anything, meant you were ancient, and I don't feel like that now that I'm here.
Whatever the beliefs I had leading up to this celebration, I was very happy I attended.
This reunion was an informal gathering, which seemed to allow more room for visiting, reminiscing and lots and lots of laughter.
As I reconnected with each of my fellow 40-year grads, I experienced a sort of surreal feeling...it felt kind of like being caught in a time warp between 1970 and the present day. What I discovered was that even though we have each lived a lot of life since high school, there was a familiar sameness to each person with whom I connected.
It didn't matter what our stories were or how many marriages we've had, what illnesses we have survived, how many children we've parented, where we've lived, what we do for a living or what our plans are for the future. We were all together again as if no time had passed.
Perhaps the greatest difference was that we were now each secure in who we are and did not feel a need to impress or fit in with the crowd. For five hours or so, the clock turned back and I, once again, was connecting with people with whom I had shared a very special time in my life.
At one point in the evening, I sat back and looked around and noticed that each person emitted the same kind of feeling or energy they did in 1970. Mannerisms, facial expressions, the way they laughed and even hugged, was the same. Sure, there was grey hair, different body shapes and facial contours, but the essence of who every one "is" felt the same.
The gift I take away from this experience is the knowing that although we may all be older (obviously), wiser (hopefully) and well-lived (surely), we are still made of the same stuff that was present back in the day when we were first launching into our grown-up lives, not knowing what was going to happen next.
In fact, here we are again, launching into the next stage of life, still not knowing what may be coming next.
Whatever it is, I bet at any point that we reconnect in the future, I will still feel the same "essence" of each of my classmates.