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5 Things I Learned at My High School Reunion

Dear Friends, Not long ago, I wrote about what I’ve learned since high school. Since sharing that post, I’ve had the privilege of attending (and enjoying!) my fortieth high school reunion. I can only describe it as a wonderful weekend, filled with friends, fun, and plenty of tender/some side-splitting memories. And of course, I acquired a bit more wisdom over the reunion weekend. I’ll do my best to summarize it: 1. Shared Memories Unite Us: In my earlier post, I mentioned that our high school schedules, interests, and activities tended to separate us. Part of the reunion’s beauty was the opportunity to revisit our shared experiences: cafeteria food (Hopewell Elementary’s tender wheat rolls, Lakota’s salty French fries), football games, prom, and particular classes/teachers. As we talked and laughed, those long-ago differences fell away, and the sweetness of the memories brought us closer than the day we graduated. 2. Life’s Difficulties Bring Compassion: As I spoke to friends and acquaintances throughout the weekend, I realized how many of us had been through challenging experiences: Cancer. Divorce. Job loss. Death of a child, parent, or spouse. Some of my classmates’ faces were etched with the pain of those tough times. Others bore little to no evidence of suffering. But whenever anyone mentioned these tough times, heads nodded and eyes warmed in both empathy and sympathy. We care a lot because we’ve been through a lot. 3. Sometimes a Friend Surprises: The evening held more surprises than I anticipated, whether by attendance (“What? I thought you couldn’t come!”), appearance (“You look just like you did back then!” or “I wish the print on that name tag was bigger, because I don’t recognize you”), or achievement (“You turned out a lot different [or exactly the same] as I expected”). But I was also surprised how much it meant to spend time with my new-old friends. One, whom I’ve known since second grade, cried upon hearing my voice. I also choked back tears as I watched old football buddies reunite and other longtime friends rejoicing at the opportunity to spend time together once again. 4. Dancing Is Cool (Even Though I’m Not): Our DJ played a delightful (for most of us) mix of 70s hits and encouraged us toward dancing and karaoke. But most of us just wanted to talk, talk, and talk some more. I did get out on the dance floor, not because I’ve got any disco moves, but because I wanted to celebrate, and dancing provided a great avenue. And unlike the times I dare to dance in view of my children, no one at the reunion made fun of me. Or if they did, my ears were too old to hear it....

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4 Things I’ve Learned Since High School

Dear Friends, My graduating class celebrates its fortieth reunion this fall. And I realize just writing that number dates me. One of the positives of social media has been the way I’ve reconnected with friends from high school and earlier. Soon, I’ll have the chance to see in person some of the people I’ve seen only online since our graduation day in the bicentennial year of (gulp) 1976. But the other day, I realized that I’m also looking forward to this reunion because I’ve learned a few things since that star-spangled graduation. When my classmates see me, they’ll no doubt notice my silvering hair, mom-curves, and face that reveals both laughter and pain. But I hope they’ll also see something else. The Martha (I went by my full name until I entered college) they knew back then isn’t the Marti they’ll see at the reunion. Here are four things I’ve learned since high school. It’s OK to be different. I always felt like the weird kid (raise your hand if you did, too). In younger years, I was left behind in the library, transfixed by my book, when everyone else returned to the classroom. I was still that kid in junior high and high school (who else wrote poetry in French and Latin?) I intentionally remade myself in my sophomore year and tried to be more outgoing, more fun, more cool (big word back then). But inside? I was still that scared little second-grader trying to fit in. Today, I’m still different. I still live through the books I read and the words I write. I still can’t dance (although I love to), and I’ve given up the idea of ever achieving even one degree of cool-ness. But guess what? All that reading and all those words have turned into a rewarding career. I cherish my family and friends more since I’ve learned I need alone-time to recharge. I dance no matter how silly I look. And raising five children has taught me moms aren’t cool anyway. What makes me different also makes me special. And I like that. A lot. What divides us is less important than what unites us. Through the process of reconnecting with friends online, I’ve realized I knew some people better in elementary school than later on. Three elementary schools united to form our junior high and high schools, so the friendship possibilities broadened. But the separate tracks (College Prep., Business, etc.) and various clubs or other activities meant we spent lots of time with one or two groups. That was good, because we got do things what we liked with people we enjoyed. But in the process, I lost some people who were...

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