Recently, I traveled up to Castine Maine for my first high school reunion. Now, while it was my first, it wasn’t the first, in fact I’d been out of touch with my classmates for over three decades. High school wasn’t an experience I wanted to relive or even celebrate, it was instead a time I had closed the door on and wasn’t too crazy about reopening that door. Afterall I’d not fit in well as a West Coast teen coming East, heck I didn’t even speak the same adolescent language and still remember getting laughed at for expressions I used. Ouch!
Stepping Through the Fear
There are two reasons I went, the first was because this was a private event, created by a couple of classmates and it wasn’t being held on campus in Groton, Massachusetts. Instead this was about all of us gathering in the picturesque town of Castine, Maine where a fellow graduate had a bed and breakfast. If I was going to tackle this, I wasn’t prepared to do it with the painful memories that might surface.
The second reason was because I found the idea of attending entirely terrifying and I’ve learned that to move forward, one must often step out in faith and walk through the fear. This was a golden opportunity to walk my talk! By my logic, I’d bungee jumped and skydived, surely I could face a reunion with my peers.
(Oh, and in case you are thinking it was my parent’s idea to send me to boarding school, rest assured it was all my idea. I wanted a top drawer high school education since I didn’t plan to go to college. Having spent three years in a Los Angeles public school I knew I needed a better option.)
Baby Steps to Success
Initially I’d planned to fly into Portland, Maine, the nearest major airport and rent a car. Castine was a three hour drive. Then a classmate offered a ride and I shifted plans to accomodate an overnight in Portland, so I could ease into the socialization. Happily he proved to be a great conversationalist, always stories to tell, history to share and we likely hadn’t said more than five words to each other in the three years we were at school.What a wonderful difference growing up can make!
Feeling a bit more confident, when we arrived at the Inn, I got settled and headed out for a walk. Coming back in, I ran into a cluster of classmates, newly arrived and catching up. There were hugs all around (this was a total surprise to me as none were really friends in school). Everyone was gracious, welcoming, accepting, interested, and interesting. I was beginning to think this might not be so bad, I might actually have fun (I definitely had fallen short while at school.)
Time Really Does Heal All Wounds
Time is especially good at healing the self inflicted kind and evidently there were a lot of us who struggled to get through. I’d just been so self focused that I was sure it was only me. The reality is that it is never just us, there is always someone and often several someones who are going through exactly what we are going through. When we step outside of our own tiny worlds, we’ll find them and be able to connect.
This was nothing like the school crowd I’d remembered. Could it be that I’d been harboring the fear and painful memories of my boarding school experience for far too long? At dinner we all sat in the dining room. My greatest fear, haunting me from school, was that I’d be at a table by myself. But imagine my delight and surprise when my former room mate (I’d been in a triple and I was odd gal out) asked if she could join me and another classmate did as well. Suddenly I found myself belonging in a way that was totally unfamiliar and yet totally wanted at the same time.
Finding Your Tribe
And then I realized that probably the greatest lesson in all of this was that all of us, in our own ways, had been searching for our tribe as Seth Godin likes to call it. We’d been looking for where we belonged. Some found it in sports and being on a team (not me); others found it in their studies (not me). And still others found it in being rebellious and partyers (definitely not me.) I remained lost, wandering on the fringes and afraid to reach out, rejection possible at every turn.
Now I have a choice. I can bemoan the years I lost to these old limiting beliefs and feelings or I can simply move forward lighter and brighter with new friends coming from my old classmates and a fresh perspective. I’m going for the forward momentum.
I’d love to hear your stories of class reunions and what you took away. More lessons on this one coming . . . comment here!