My high school class’ 30th anniversary reunion was last weekend. I had attended my 10th and my 20th, but this one was different.
We’ve all been through a lot, but this time we are the adults, the responsible ones, struggling to meet the demands of raising families and finding meaning in life.
Life was very different in 1986. No one had a phone in their pocket. There was no internet. Big hair and Guess jeans were the rage. The soundtrack to my life was Bon Jovi, Phil Collins and Prince.
I wasn’t that focused on my future. I had received my college acceptance letter and I was going through the motions like everybody else, but all I really wanted to do was hang out at the beach and play Quarters around a table at night with my friends.
I had a really great group of friends. We were super-close, like sisters. At the tender ages of 17 and 18 we had been through a lot together already. We had consoled each other through our parents’ affairs and divorces. We had watched more than one of our parents abandon their families for greener pastures. We had witnessed domestic violence and suffered depression. Some of us had parents who had it all together, but got sick. Other parents in our tight-knit group overspent and ran the family finances off into a ditch.
We could rely on each other, show up at each others’ door steps without warning and always find comfort. And we had fun. Sleepovers, proms, endless days at the beach — growing up in Westport, Connecticut had lots of perks. By senior year, we all had full-time summer jobs, but that didn’t keep us from coming together every night. That’s where the guys came in.
Of course, I wasn’t nearly as close with the guys. But they were always there for us, too. Somehow, it seemed that they were the ones whose parents were always out of town, so countless memories of summer nights took place on the back decks and patios of my guy-friends’ houses.
I don’t know how we managed to pull our plans together night after night without group-text-messaging, but it worked. We would all chip in on a case of beer and begin playing. Past midnight we would smoke Marlboro Lights and play Quarters, Mexican, and Three Man. Stories of work and family would be shared and jokes would be told. We made fun of one another mercilessly and laughed until we cried.
Yes, by graduation, I had found my niche. Earlier in high school though, I just longed to be cool. Everyone in our class of approximately 450 fell into one category or another. There were the jocks, the stoners and the dorks; the brains, losers and the popular crowd. I can’t fathom why now, but at 15, being popular was an all-consuming obsession. I like to think I was nice to everyone, whatever label they fit into, but I really don’t remember. Did I say “hi” to everyone in the halls as we passed between classes? Or just those who had social status? I wish I knew now.
At previous class reunions, some of us acted pompous. People tried to show off, to make it clear that they had “made it.” There was a focus on who drove what, who lived in what kind of house, and which of the women “had” to work. It had been nice to see everyone at earlier reunions, but we didn’t connect on a meaningful level. And we didn’t reach out to connect with those in our class who we hadn’t been close with. It was still kind of like high school itself.
But the 30th was different. Our class has lost an inordinate number of members, including a high number to suicides — two in recent months. A dialogue had begun following those deaths on our class Facebook page. People were sharing like never before. Personal stories of struggles with addiction and depression were shared. The walls came down. There were no more pretenses. It became about openness, honesty, and being there for each other. And not just those in our own personal clique. The entire class was leaning on each other. One of my best girlfriends called us a “tribe” and it stuck.
Over several days last week, back in my hometown, we bonded. Not only did I connect on a deeper level than ever with my closest friends from the past, but I also opened up dialogues with classmates I had never spoken to before. I had come to see their warmth, their intelligence and their specialness over Facebook prior to the reunion, and seeing them in person was very meaningful.
I left Westport transformed. My soul feels larger, like it’s bursting at the seams. I have renewed energy to make the most of my relationships and to find meaning in every interaction with every person I meet. I am incredibly grateful for my posse, closer than ever after 30-plus years, but also for my entire class. These interactions with “new” friends whom I have known my whole life, leave me feeling lucky to have been a part of the Class, no, the Tribe, of ‘86.
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