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13 Revelations I Brought Home from My Iconic 50th High School Reunion

By Elizabeth Dunkel October 17, 2019 Mindset

We slipped quietly into our hometown, arriving one by one – by car, taxi, bus, or train. We all wondered what we would feel. It all looks the same! It all looks different!

My two high school BFFs and I took a room at the local inn and wandered around town, ending up at the diner for lunch. Of course, there were classmates in there! We were taking over the town! The reunion weekend had begun.

When our 50th reunion came up, originally, I didn’t want to go, but I applied the “regret” test (“Would you regret it if you didn’t go?”). Yes, I said to myself and called up my two high school BFFs to book our tickets and hotel. And I’m soooo glad I did.

Here are the things I learned:

It’s a BIG Event

The 50th reunion is way bigger an event than you can even imagine. Big in the cosmic sense. Poignant to the max. Lives well lived. Health tolls. Tragedies and triumphs. Big emotions. Big thoughts.

Wonderings. Sadness and great joy. A time for taking stock, pausing as we go into the always uncertain future. Mostly, gratitude.

It’s All About the Hugs

I’ve been to every reunion that my class has held every 10 years, but the 50th was different. It was all about the big, fierce, strong, loving hugs we gave each other, no matter how well we knew each other back then.

It was about throwing myself into the arms of people I maybe barely acknowledged as I passed them in the halls 50 years ago. It was shocking, the amount of love and acceptance I felt. Who doesn’t want that?!

The Best Question to Ask Your Classmates

One of my high school BFFs is a psychiatrist, and she turned me on to the best question to ask classmates as a conversation starter. In the past, we asked about careers or children. And now, “Are you retired?” seemed boring and a dead end.

Her brilliant suggestion? “What do you do for fun?”

Wow! Now that’s a lovely and interesting question to be asked and answered. “What do you do for fun?” is an opening to bring out the essence of a person. It’s a loving and lovely question.

You MUST Dance!

Just like in high school, we gals got up and started dancing in our girl circles. I looked around and realized we represented every clique there was in high school, only now we were dancing all together!

I was dancing with a popular girl, a nerd, the class valedictorian, a cheerleader, the girl who got pregnant, the hood, the shy girl. Cliques were over, we were all fabulous now.

Even Movie Stars Look Old

I am fortunate to have in my high school class a REALLY BIG STAR OF STAGE AND SCREEN. A real MOVIE STAR. He’s come to every reunion we’ve had, dutifully, every 10 years, because he’s family! He belongs to us!

And I’m happy to say, he looks just as awfully fabulous (haha) as we all do! Hollywood has great lenses, gels, makeup artists, cosmetic surgeons, and digital retouching… but rest assured, in person, he looks like… us! And he posed for all the dumb photos we took all weekend long.

Don’t Drink

You will have a lot more fun and energy if you don’t drink. You will remember things if you don’t drink. There’s too much going on to get lost in an alcohol haze. You want the finesse of authentic conversations. (Besides, listening to slurry speeches is not fun, not to mention, embarrassing.)

Make It a Weekend

If you can swing it – and you have good organizers – a weekend reunion is best, giving people the time for significant conversations and relaxing back into class conviviality. My three-day reunion cost $150.

On Friday night, there was a pay-as-you-go cocktail reception in a local bar for whoever arrived in town early.

On Saturday, there were tents and tables set up near the football field for a brunch starting at 10 a.m. and sliding into a barbecue as the day wore on. Hours for talking and wandering.

Saturday evening was a beautiful buffet dinner with a DJ. A pay-your-own casual breakfast was set up on Sunday before everyone left.

What Goes on in Your Hotel Room

What goes on in your hotel room is also a major part of the reunion, and it happens in rooms all over the hotel! I shared a room with my two high school BFFs.

We had a hilarious time together gossiping about absolutely everything, sharing notes from our conversations with different classmates, and having our own drama in the room as we discussed our lives.

I was aware that there were similar “pods” going on all over the hotel. There was the official reunion and there was all the conviviality going on in the hotel rooms.

Passions Can Run High

Even though everyone has mellowed, be prepared for FEELINGS! Hey, it’s high school! Certain people STILL “pressed my buttons”! I’m laughing as I write this because it’s really ridiculous.

But now, we are old enough to recognize it and not take it seriously. Still, high school holds onto you forever! That’s why it’s high school!

Take LOTS of Photos

Keep your phone in your hand during the reunion and snap away. Snap groups of people talking. Snap a pic of the person you’re talking to. Upload all your photos onto your class FB page so everyone can enjoy.

Go See Your Family Home

Take a walk around town and spend some time “on the street where you lived.” Look at your family home, see the changes, what trees are gone or replanted.

Walk down favorite streets, visit your old haunts. The familiar smells of your town, the light. Let the memories flow through you: it’s who you are! Feel blessed and grateful.

The Reunion Doesn’t End When It’s Over

You go home and will think about it for a long time. You will mull, laugh, cringe, and cry. It IS a big deal! The regrets of who you didn’t talk to, what you didn’t say. Forgive yourself. Celebrate yourself!

And carry on brightly into the future with all the love and memories that make you who you are. You are so lucky!

What I “Really” Learned?

In the end, what I really learned is that I am loved. That I am good. That I did good. That I did the best I can. That all is well.

Hey, girlfriends! What tips can you share about planning your high school reunion? Or perhaps you have some stories or memories to share about your reunion? What revelations did you have? The comments box is where the conversation begins. We want to know, so spill!

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The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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