I regrettably chose to NOT attend my high school 20th reunion for fear I would look like a “loser.” Back then, I was simply too afraid to show up at my reunion empty handed, with no husband to hold my hand, nor pictures of kiddies to flaunt to others.
Man, was I being silly. First of all, I was acting like a hypocrite. There I was, encouraging clients in my practice to “sally forth” and face life with confidence and curiosity as I sat in the metaphorical corner with my hands over my eyes, fearing I would be judged for what I have NOT accomplished.
I also cannot believe I assumed the other alumni would even care about my “current status.” The only one who cared was the tiny green monster sitting on my shoulder, whispering, “You have not done anything with your life.”
Last fall, I realized the 20th reunion at my alma mater, Duke University was coming up this April. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have the same trepidations. I was still not married nor did I have children. However, whether because I’d accomplished other feats, such as publishing a best-selling book, or dropping the freshman fifteen I’d gained in college, I was excited to attend. Wonderfully, all of my senior-year housemates were in the same state of mind, and we unanimously decided to meet at our school and spend the weekend celebrating our 20th reunion.
Since I have not been to Duke since the day I graduated, I was taken aback by the drastic changes that have been made. For example, my freshman dorm was transformed into an administrative building for the university’s hospital. And when I looked for the “Hide Away,” the on-campus bar where only seniors and grad students hung out, I was sad to see it had been shut down. However, the lingering smells of aging pages emanating from voluminous texts and mahogany wood paneling as I walked into the university library brought me right back to various evenings of stressing over an exam, nibbling on yogurt-covered pretzels, and lamenting with other girls about life’s hardships: boys, boys and more boys. Ahh, the luxury of being a student.
I would have thought that seeing the school and the young undergraduates carrying their textbooks and laptops would have made me nostalgic and possibly remorseful for what I didn’t get out of my Duke experience. But surprisingly, I was able to reflect on those four years as a time of tremendous growth. Yes, there were painful moments, but without pain, you cannot grow. Right? In hindsight, the pain was what made me who I am today.
One of the events that Duke had planned for the reunion was a gala that my housemates and I decided to attend. I ran into so many fellow classmates whom I had not seen in 20 years (unless of course we were FB friends), and met others from my graduating class whom I had never laid eyes on before that evening. Not only was it such a relief to see that the women had aged beautifully, but it was remarkable to see the boys’ transition from bozo-frat-boys into principled, well-mannered, sensitive men.
Yes, my fellow alumni may have had their own “sparkling moments” occur in their personal lives, but who hasn’t? And more importantly, who cares? From what it appeared, we genuinely expressed interest in each other’s lives regardless the accomplishments we were all supposed to have made since 1992.
Moral of the story: If you are debating whether or not you “should” attend your 20th reunion, I’d suggest you go. For this is the time to truly appreciate what you have accomplished thus far.