Friday, 16. September 2011 12:18
I recently attended a high school reunion and had a wonderful time. I know lots of folks don’t feel that way about their high school get-togethers, so I feel particularly lucky. Perhaps it’s partly because I attended a “special” high school in Manhattan, where little attention was paid to one’s ethnic and socioeconomic background. Many of us traveled a far distance from neighboring boroughs to get to Manhattan every day, so students were motivated to learn.
For some of us, Stuyvesant High School provided a welcome escape from dysfunctional family life, tough neighborhoods, difficult junior high experiences, and the many other places where we just didn’t seem to fit. There were few fights at school, and to the best of my knowledge, no bullying. In short, at “Stuy”, we had a place to go that felt safe.
That’s not to say that we were all friends, and that there wasn’t typical teenage angst and suffering, but it was a community, one that embraced a live and let-live attitude. Now, almost 35 years later, it’s clear that while most of us have had our share of tragedy, success, love and loss, we are genuinely happy to see each other.
When you think about it, our high school peers are the people who knew us in the raw, when life was still fresh and innocent. The newness of love, lust, joy and hurt were magnified about 1000 times back then and every discovery was tremendously exciting as a result. It was a time of possibility, deep human learning and boundless energy. Our high school peers are the people who knew us when we were kernels that had not yet popped.
And although we share many “secrets”, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. These are the people who know if you were a geek, a stoner or a jock. Fortunately, we seem to have moved beyond the labels that once bound and limited us. At the same time, these folks have a foundational understanding of who we are as individuals, long before we became moms, dads, poets or people in charge of many things.
This shared history allowed me to experience a few magnificent moments at the reunion. It was delicious to be in the presence of people who could still see the shiny, exuberance of youth in each other’s eyes and smiles, while losing track of graying hair, extra pounds and the fine lines of experience etched across our faces.
This experience made me keenly aware that being part of a community that shares values, and values acceptance, is a great gift. Being with people who can see past the exterior and can acknowledge and appreciate the kernel of your raw individuality and share a joyful moment is a soul celebration. Perhaps not all high school reunions afford the same gifts, but my hope for you and I, is that we have many more opportunities to experience and to create these connections throughout our lives, for ourselves, and for others, at work, at play and in our world community.