Everyone should go to their class reunions. And everyone should get a nametag so you know who is who at your class reunion. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking past someone who wants to be noticed. The looking past, in my case anyway, would be a combination of bad eyesight, an even worse memory, and a general sense of discomfort of being with people I haven't seen in a long, long time.
My 20-year class reunion was last weekend. Most everyone I saw and recognized (thank you, Facebook) was sweet, friendly, receptive, and sometimes even overjoyed. My friend Andi picked me up off the ground twice - what a way to feel loved!
One guy I saw many times, made eye contact most of those times, and - nothing. This is not someone with whom I was close, it was actually someone that stirred the fear of teenage insecurities inside of me on a regular basis in high school. I was very unimpressed to feel those same emotions as the strong, confident, secure, and happy almost-40-year-old I perceive myself to be.
About the 10th time I came into range with this guy, I just walked up to him and said, “That is an awesome shirt!” The distant, cool look instantly left his eye, he put his arm around me, side hugged me, and kissed me on the head. We had a short and meaningless conversation because we still do not have much in common and really had no mutual memories over which to chortle 20 years later, but the moment was cathartic. I approached him, he responded, and years of confusion, trepidation, and the unknown dissolved in that short, insignificant moment. Now we’re friends who don't really know each other. We still have little in common and I doubt I’ll fly out to Tucson anytime soon, but the tendrils of teenage angst are gone. What a relief!
The other cathartic moment I had during the reunion was seeing a picture of myself somewhere between the ages of 15 and 17. My memories of myself in high school involve lots of fear, anger, tears, lack of understanding and feeling understood, and a general grip of mental chaos and negativity. This picture said something utterly different. There I was, all young and cute, wearing a jean jacket with buttons all over it, big hair and an even bigger smile. Aha! I was happy sometimes as a teenager. I did have fun and smile and laugh and make others smile and laugh. I did feel connected and it was not all angst, anger, and rejection. Know what my inner guidance said to me at that very moment? “Get over yourself.”
And that is what I did. I hugged everyone, I smiled at everyone, I truly missed the ones who did not show up whether I loved them in high school or not. I saw the common ground in all of us who did show up: a big mass of successes, failures, travels, hot spouses (you know who you are!), divorces, amazing children, careers, hopes, dreams, ideas all smashed together and mixed up and spit back out 20 years later.
Certainly there are still people I connect more strongly with than others, people with whom I chose to spend more time than others, and those who seemed a little worse for the wear or more sparkly than others. But here’s what I think about it all - we all have collective and individual karma. The class reunion strongly brings into focus your collective karma with a group of people you could not choose (by the way, if you did choose them, think of the many important lessons you never would have learned!) and puts you back with them in a situation to continue to learn.
Approaching this group who taught you lessons in love, friendship, hardship, character, and your own personal karma with the kindness of a grandmother (who will put up with a lot and then smack you when you go too far) worked best for me. Holding on to past injuries, identities, and angers will only cultivate more of that ugly stuff. I root for the beauty of it all - get on out there and hug those buggers - they’re the only class you’ve got! Life in high school was hard for Everyone (smart, ugly, thin, funny, stupid, popular, athletic, fat, boring, plain and any combination thereof) - why do you think The Breakfast Club is such a popular movie? We can all identify with at least one, if not all, of those characters.
And on another note, and one in which we all have much more conscious control than our karmas, entering any relationship whether romantic, friendship, grocery store conversation or large gathering and expecting someone else to be a certain way (e.g. nicer, less egotistical, more understanding, etc) is in error. If you leave feeling injured, that's your problem. We are only in charge of ourselves and our reactions. As my very astute little brother said to me the other day, “People expect too much of each other. You have to make your own self happy. Nobody else can do it for you.”
My personal addition is that unconditional love comes only from within. If you’re looking outside of yourself for acceptance, you’ll always be disappointed. If you’re looking for the jerk in people, you’re likely to find it. Conversely, and much more fun and surprising, if you’re looking to connect -even just about a nice shirt - you’re much more likely to experience that. Your preconceptions basically create your perceived reality - why not make it something worth experiencing!?
So thanks, Park High Class of ’92 - I continue to learn from you.
Much love and blessings to you all!!