Here’s ones of many things that I want to know:
Whose brainchild was it to have 10 year reunions for high school classes? Who thought this was ever going to be a great idea!?
Let’s be real about this for a moment. High School reunions are nothing but the most socially awkward meetings you can encounter. In general terms, groups are often times broken down in the following way. The group of people who were considered to be “The Nobodies” in High School feel either feel petrified to return for fear of being ridiculed once again by their former nemeses, or else they walk in with a chip on their shoulder wanting to prove to all in attendance that they’ve changed, that they’re not in that stereotype anymore. The group of people who were the regular kids (aka “The Forgotten Ones”) who felt as though nobody knew or remembered them because they didn’t know where they fit into the absurd social class & hierarchy that somehow magically evolves every single year—this group is still uncertain about how they will be treated, and some might even be scared that they have fallen further down in the social structure and are in for a night of humiliation. The people who were the cools kids have everything to lose: they’ll show up and either not be as accomplished as others or not cool anymore and will be labeled as “The ones who peaked in High School”, or else they will have accomplished a lot, will be living a great life, and then will continue to be hated by the rest of the class.
And let’s be honest, we arrive at our High School 10 year reunions with the most unrealistic expectations of “success”. We all want to see who is the most successful, as though claiming that title will have some magical impact on our lives. Trying to compare success is more like watching a group of peacocks trying to strut their stuff to see who has the biggest feathers and best looking tail. What we view as success at these short events is almost exclusively based upon shallow external evaluations. People want to see who is the best looking couple, who has the biggest house, who is the most advanced in their career, who has the largest paycheck. But let’s face it, unless you’re a Mark Zuckerberg or find overnight success, who really has “achieved success” in the 10 years since High School? Many individuals are spending more than 4 years in college / university with the norm being 5-6 years in length. Some students also choose to take an extra year to study abroad and learn a new language/ experience a different culture, while others may take an entire year off and go work (for next to nothing) in under-served areas around the world as either teachers, basic medical personnel, or missionaries. If you go on to Grad School, you’re looking at a minimum of an additional 2 years. Then you begin to launch your career via internships, residencies, or fellowships. So when the 10 year High School Reunion comes around, the probability that someone could still be a student or in a professional training program is higher than you may realize.
Here’s a short list of the average number of years post high school it takes (*here in the US) to become the following professions: Nurse (BSN) = 4-5 years (prerequisites plus core nursing classes), Lawyer = 7 years (4 college, 3 Law School), Dentist = 8 years (4 college, 4 Dental School), Family Practice Physician = 11 years (4 college, 4 Med.School, 3 Residency). Some students in high school want to pursue a sub-specialty in medicine because they think “that’s where the money is.” (They’re wrong: Read This and This). If you really want to land a career in these so called “lucrative” specialties, here’s the years you’ll be putting in: Cardiologist = 13 years (4 college, 4 Med.School, 3 Internal Med Residency, 2 Fellowship. Add additional years for specialties such as Interventional Cardiologist), Orthopedic Surgeon = 13 years (4 college, 4 Med.School, 5 residency. Add additional years for fellowship sub-specialties), Neurosurgeon = 16 years (4 college, 4 med.school, 8 residency. Add additional years for fellowship sub-specialties). And we’re only looking at the number of years you’re working, we haven’t even begun to discuss the amount of debt you have incurred along the way.
I’m stopping the side-tangent here about the issues of our educational and healthcare system here in the U.S. (that makes for great future material/ blog posts). But the point here is: to become a working professional takes significant time and dedication, and for some, they won’t complete this journey before their 10 year high school reunion rolls around. This is why it is extremely ridiculous that we naively set all these expectations for success and accomplishments that we’re “supposed to achieve” before our 10 year High School reunions.
Sure, in the days before internet, texting, or Facebook, a 10 year high school reunion might have had a purpose in bringing old friends back together again to reconnect, or it may have served to help people realize we actually do grow up after High School. Some become extremely attractive, some find out what their true talents are and become incredible business people, or even better for some people, they did both and showed the world that not only have they improved their physical appearance, but that being a nerd, a geek, an incredibly intellectual person is truly the sexiest trait anyone can possess. Don’t believe that last statement? Remember back to Chris Kutcher’s input on the subject (and if you try to tell me that what he says is only for Teens because it took place at the Teen Choice Awards…):
So what do we do with this unsettling feeling about revisiting our high school days and taking a trip down memory lane? I say don’t look at it as going back in the past. Look at it as going forward into the future. Treat the people you see (and perhaps for the first time meet) with dignity, professionalism, and respect, all the while without judgment. Be genuine to them and put the focus on them, not on you. Congratulate them on where they are in life and celebrate in their accomplishments. Yes, it may be hard to do these things and remain gracious, but remember: high school reunions are for only 1 night or weekend. You can do it! Besides, I also believe you will become the superstar that everyone else will remember and talk about for years to come. Why? Because treating every single individual with respect, love, and compassion (as opposed to slipping back into our archaic form of high school social hierarchy) is what makes you memorable, beloved by others, and above all, is always the right thing to do!