Why I Wanted to Go to My High School Reunion But Didn’t

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My 10 year high school reunion was on Friday. I had been planning on going since the summer. But once the email went out, telling us how to buy tickets and RSVP, I just couldn’t commit.

This huge part of me really wanted to go.

But I just couldn’t picture myself there. With those people.

I wanted to experience the “10 years later” vibe. I wanted to ask people what they’re doing now and, of course, tell them what I do. I wanted to have conversations about universities and failed job searches and well-deserved promotions.

My husband did not want to go – let’s not forget that I went to his 15 year reunion 2 years ago, leaving a crying infant at home. But I didn’t want him to be miserable. You wouldn’t like him when he’s miserable.

Go by myself? No doubt I would have found the nearest wall in need of a good propping up and done my best to keep it upright.

Yeah, it shouldn’t really be that hard.

And it isn’t.

You don’t see me being a wall flower around these parts, do you?

High school wasn’t a great time for me – like so many. I was successful and well-known but hardly well-liked. High school was 4 years of surviving in a sea of teenagers who weren’t “my people.” I wanted to go to my reunion to gain approval from people who, most likely, are still not “my people.”

I have people. You’re right here. You’re at the events I do attend and on the digital streams I frequent. You’re even on my iPhone and on autopilot when I get in my car.

I am constantly surrounded by love & support. Why seek approval from people who aren’t hard-wired to care about my hard wiring?

That’s why high school sucked.

And why my life now is so rad.

Yep, I wanted to go – but everything I need is right here.

34 thoughts on “Why I Wanted to Go to My High School Reunion But Didn’t

  1. Ooh, I can so relate. Just went through the torture of deciding in October (my 30th!). I decided on a no. Just really didn’t care to go back there.

    You summed up your reasoning perfectly.

  2. Oh BOY! You summed up completely about how I feel, not just about School Reunions, but about many people in my past whom I have let go- for EXACTLY the same reasons as you!
    Gaininging approval from people who are nor ‘my’ sort of people…why do we do this to ourselves? They don’t care, and really truly, I don’t care either…everyone has moved on.
    Thank you for writing this- it meant a lot to me just reading it!

  3. You are right, everything you need is right here!
    I often shy out of those types of events, they weren’t my people then and they are very unlikely to be now.

    I think it’s great that you have the wisdom to see that you are loved and respected here.


  4. Way to make me feel old, Tara! My 20th was this summer- lol! I, too, had given serious thought to attending mine, accepting friend requests on Facebook from all the folks dying to connect with old classmates, and making road trip plans. (And, no, my husband did not want to attend either!)
    But when it came down to it, there really was no reason for me to travel halfway across the country to attend. Out of a graduating class of nearly 500, there was maybe five people I would have enjoyed seeing. So that left 99% of a class I really was indifferent towards seeing. And of all those people who friended me on Facebook, I maybe exchange comments with four of them on a regular basis, which only reinforces for me what a waste the reunion would have been.
    Embrace your past, but leave it behind, I say!

  5. Bravo Tara! I went to the ten year and a few beyond and never got any satisfaction. It took me a lot of years to learn that my people never were and never would be those people. YOU are one of my people now and I am very happy about that :-)

  6. How universal is this feeling! It reminds me of a saying my mother repeated so often, and I now find it true in so many different ways:

    “The whole world is just a village.”

    One just needs to know how to look for kindred spirits, and you’ll find “your people” easily. That “how” skill is something that comes with experience, and it is no wonder that we feel so lost during our high school years no matter where in the world you go to school. Thank you for reminding me of it.


  7. Fabulous piece of writing!! Sorry school wasn’t the safe piece for you that it was for me. Still I wouldn’t want to go back after these 10 yrs; I’m a different person and like you, I have all I need right here.

  8. I have to admit I’m a little surprised, especially by the bold sentence at the end of the post. It doesn’t seem to fit with the usual vibe of your writing and philosophy. (Disclaimer: I planned our ten year reunion and had a great time at it.) My current life is completely different than I – or anyone I ever went to school with – probably thought it would turn out. Since the reunion, I’ve become unemployed, unable to afford barely anything, a full-time student, divorced and living with my boyfriend. When I started my blog and little business, I avoided telling high school people about it like the plague. I knew what they would say. I’m friends with most of them on Facebook and I avoided posting anything about myself. I had set up my blog to update to my status when I wrote, and so I agonized over every post because I feared the judgement. The result was that I never wrote anything and when I did, it was never personal. I never talked about my business on my infrequent trips home. So, I was paralyzed by fear of what these people thought of me and what they were saying about me…most of them people I hadn’t seen in years and probably never will again.

    But something started happening…some of them started commenting on my blog posts. They bought things from my shop. They told me how cool my life was. They said they were jealous. And, they were (and are) openly supportive. I’m now pretty good friends with a few women I barely spoke to in school. And we’re friends on a more real level than because we played soccer together or were on student council. Discovery a kindred spirit in someone I spent my early years with has been amazing. They know and understand where I come from and who I am now.

    So, I was sad that you wrote off everyone in your high school class as being not “your people.” Just as you’ve grown and changed and evolved, so have they. They may have actually surprised you.

    1. Hey Jillian! Thanks so much for your comment. I’ve been really active on Facebook now for 2 years. I have plenty of “friends” that I went to high school with. Some I knew then, some not so much.

      I don’t think I’ve ever had a comment or “thumbs up” from someone on something about what I do now. But truly, I don’t even think about it.

      It’s just that there’s nothing backing up any hope that I would have that people might be interested in “me” now.

      Why make myself sick (reality) over something that just doesn’t matter?

      For me, this person realization has everything to do with my business. I don’t try to please people who aren’t into me or what I do – they’re not my customers. Just as people who aren’t into me & my interests aren’t my friends.

      Sure, I could put some effort into making nice – but if we’re not really going to click anyhow, what’s the point?

      I’m sure this sounds very defeatist from your perspective because you have had a very different experience! And I’m so glad you did!

      But for me, it’s very very freeing. So many people waste years waiting for the people around them to like them, they make decisions that way, they make themselves sick – I did it and I don’t have to do it anymore.

      By the by, I can’t wait for my college reunion in 4 years. Now THAT will be a party!

      Thanks again for your comment!

  9. Good for you! High school was difficult for me as well…my reunion time hasn’t come around yet but this is basically how I feel about the experience. Really, it’s not necessary to dwell on it…or force yourself to endure it again!

  10. don’t worry – i wasn’t a big fan of high school either. i did go to my reunion last week with a friend. there is no way i would have gone by myself and after a couple hours, we were done for another 10 years.

  11. I had my 10-year reunion 6 years ago and felt much the same way you did about yours. Before Facebook and the virtual reunions I’m subjected to on a daily basis, I barely gave anyone I went to school with a passing thought once I graduated – and I know they did the same with me. I went to my reunion to reconnect with a couple of people I honestly missed and I did enjoy that part of it, but the petty gossip and one-upmanship that was so prevalent in high school didn’t take long to resurface.

    I’m still not sure if I want to go to my 20th in 4 years. If I do, it will only be because people I really want to see – and introduce my partner & daughter to – will be there. Otherwise, I couldn’t be bothered.

  12. I hear you! I did go to my 10th reunion, mainly because I’d gotten married and part of me wanted to shove in my classmates’ faces, “look! Fat ugly shy Darlene managed to snag herself a man!” ugh.

    It turned out to be one of the most boring nights of my life. No one I was friends with back then showed up and no one seemed to have much to talk about with one another. I found the whole thing to be a huge waste of time and money.

    The person I am today no longer cares about seeking approval from people I haven’t seen in decades and never liked very much to begin with (and vice versa). Thank god!

  13. PS After reading Jillian’s comment I want to add that I also do still have some friends from High School and don’t need to attend a reunion to see them. I just found the reunions to be a depressing reminder of a difficult time. I’m sure it is different for many others, but I can relate to the “not attend” choice.

  14. Thanks for this post, Tara (and comments, Jillian)! Mine’s coming up in July and I’m on the fence. I was having a hard time identifying why I was so uneasy about it and this discussion is just what I needed. – Trisha

  15. I’m pretty much in a similar boat as so many of the other commenters here. I had a small circle of friends and stuck out like a sore thumb. I didn’t get much approval from peers and spent much time battling my own low self-esteem, phobias and (then undiagnosed) depression. I have Facebook connections with a few people from my high school, but we hardly utter a word to each other.

    Like many people, life goes on. I grew up and underwent many changes. I was interested in reconnecting with many of peers in recent years, mostly out of curiosity. That interest was killed last year when I (and many other friends from then) were not even invited to our 15 year reunion, even after I asked the one contact I had for details when she told me that there *might* be one.

    Ouch. Talk about being written off in a big way.

    Tara, I can totally understand not wanting to put time and effort into something that just won’t work. We may all be very different people, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who has grown up has also matured.

  16. Hi Tara, I enjoy your posts and can definitely relate to this one… I never even considered going to my high school reunion for the similar reasons. It’s really okay to let people of your past remain exactly that. I also have had old classmates crop up on facebook, and I am not sure why… they seem to have little interest in really connecting with me, so maybe it’s just a way to inflate their “friends” list… I guess high school insecurity lives on. Cheers! Lalove

  17. I felt the same way about my 10th – and 20th. I didn’t go to either, but received pics of both. I have noticed that as people have aged, they have mellowed.

    My mom told me years ago not to bother with reunions until 20/25. She felt her classmates had finally humbled a bit by that time, and could treat each other as equals.

    Our funky culture idealizes those “golden times” of high school that really didn’t exist for most of us. It’s so liberating to break out of that paradigm and create our own. Lucky you for figuring that out relatively early in life. Keep going…you’ve found your tribe.

  18. I hear ya on this! I always thought I would attend my 10 year reunion. Then it split into two. Yeah, the cool kids planned their own exclusive reunion, on an entirely separate date from the main one!

    It just reiterated everything I hated about high school and my suburban upbringing in general.

    It’s now that I’m an adult that I’ve found my people. I love to count you as one of them!

  19. I hear you! I think that 10 years is way too soon for a reunion to feel comfortable. People still have too much to prove. My 20th (actually 21st, because everyone actually forgot about the 20th!) was far far nicer. Just people and their kids hanging out and reminiscing. I’m actually looking forward to the 25th!

  20. I’ve not been to any of my high school reunions. There’s a bit of curiousity, I suppose, but whenever the time comes ’round I think about it briefly & quickly realize there are other trips I’d rather spend the money on. (I graduated from HS in…gulp…1985. Phoenix, AZ.)

    I’ve also not gone to any of my college reunions. I honestly don’t think I’d have much in common with my classmates (West Point, 1989). I’ve always been, and still am, liberal politically & socially. The emails I’ve seen from classmates on various class email lists made me realize how little I have in common with them — to the point I unsubscribed.

    If there’s someone I do want to say ‘hi’ to, from either HS or West Point, then I just hop on Facebook or LinkedIn.

    I would like to visit my alma mater, with husband in tow — he’s never been there — but again, it’s not high on the list of priorities. I’d visit in conjunction with another trip, perhaps, but can’t see going just for a reunion.

  21. this sounds like me! my 10 year reunion was after thanksgiving but i knew i didn’t want to go. besides not being friends with hardly anyone in my grade, i see what people are doing from facebook. lame, i know lol

  22. I don’t really understand why that particular group of people in our lives is so interesting to us, that culturally, we keep this habit of organizing parties around them? Maybe it is in part because the parties are organized by the people who really DID experience the best years of their lives when they were in high school — though I can’t imagine how ANYONE could admit to that.

    I am grateful for Facebook for connecting me back with one or two friends from h.s. that I really did like, but didn’t have the chance to connect with in a real way– one of them was a TEACHER that I loved but you can’t have that kind of grown-up friendship when they are the “adult” and you are the “kid.” Other than that, I am right with you on the page of life is good now.

    Though I am sad that so many of my friends that “get” me are so scattered geographically.

  23. I skipped my 10 year, not because I didn’t want to go, but because I had just been laid off from my dot com job at the end of the boom. My 20 year is in a few months and I actually want to go – but mostly because I want to see how everyone really turned out -not what their facebook status says, but how they are in real life.

  24. My 10 year high school reunion is coming up but I just can’t imagine attending. I’m friends with a few of them on Facebook, but haven’t bothered to really talk to any of them since then. I figure if we can’t bother to talk to each other online or visit each other, there’s no reason I should board my dog, drive two hours, and stay in a hotel just to continue the trend of not really caring about each other. I have people in my life right now would probably would bother to visit me if it came down to it, so I’ll pass.

  25. If you had given it a chance, you might have been surprised. People change, people grow up and people mature.

    I went to my reunion by myself and had a great time reconnecting with people. Are all of them “my people”? Probably not. But they are all people with whom I could share some time and even learn some things from.

  26. What an interesting topic! i went to my 20 year high school reunion last weekend and it was fantastic. I’d really like to share why:-)

    I was not a popular student, nor was I fashionable or affluent, and i was ambivalent about attending. But I am really glad I went, because I discovered that everyone was trying to fit in, everyone felt intimidated by someone, everyone secretly admired someone else. It was great leveller, and what ever happened back then remains back then in the tumultuous years of high school, and I feel like a part of something:-) There are people that didn’t attend and I really wished they had, because I would have loved to see them.

    Honestly nobody turned up to win approval, everyone was curious and smiling, and sharing photos of their kids and I reckon if you get a chance to go then take it, and for those of you who missed yours theres always the next one:-D

  27. I must say I was as surprised as Jillian by your comments! I missed my 10 year reunion, as I was in another country 6,000 miles away and what I did hear about did not fill me with hope to be honest – at that age, I think we are still trying to find our way in the world and trying to prove ourselves. I happened to be in my home country the weekend my 20 year reunion was on, so did not have much time to think about it but I went and had the most fabulous time. We did nothing but laugh over the 2 days – and it was great to reconnect with some of them again. Yes, there were some, who were quite frankly, the same or worse than what they were then, but so what? I really don’t care; I don’t need to stay in touch with them. I would highly recommend going to your 20yr reunion – I think everyone is older & wiser and take delight in what others are doing and are on average not trying to prove themselves – yes, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule – best just to avoid those!

  28. A-friggin’-men!

    When my 10 year rolls around I will hopefully be in graduate school in a new and interesting place, doing what I want to do, being who I am and spending my time with the person I love – Your high school experience sounds similar to mine. I had my small group of friends and I got by, but I always felt awkward, uncomfortable, like I wasn’t really myself there – It sucked.

    When I went to college, it was completely different – I chose where I wanted to go (my parents divorced soon before high school and I was forced to live and go to school somewhere completely new from where I was used to) and what I wanted to study and I could have a fresh start with friends who liked me for who I was, I was done pretending – It just came naturally. I never felt like I was “trying to fit in” or trying to win the attention of a classmate – If we got along, awesome! If not, so what – There are many more people out there to be friendly with.

    Why would I want to spend my time going back to that awkwardness, and feel (again) like I am just trying to prove myself to these people that I didn’t really have anything in common with in the first place?

  29. I forced my husband to go to my 15 year, even though I hated high school and was so invisible I thought no one would remember me. I actually had a great time catching up with people, my husband though, not so much. Some drunk dudes from my class accused him of hitting on them. And, if you knew my husband who is a total guys guy, you’d know why a fight nearly broke out. I, uh, don’t think we’ll be making the 20. LOL

  30. I’m late to the party as usual… But this post struck a chord with me, and I wanted to leave my 2 cents.

    I went to my 5 year reunion (10 year will be next year!) with pretty low expectations… I mostly went because most of my friends were going, and some of them had moved out of town so it was an excuse to get dressed up, hang out with them and have a few drinks.

    Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by my former classmates. I was far from popular, but there were only a couple of kids I *really* didn’t get along with. I was involved in all the “dorky” activities like band, choir, theater, etc. I wasn’t teased or tormented by most of my classmates (with the exception of maybe 2 or 3 of them), I just wasn’t part of the “cool” crowd. And the truth was, it was probably just as much me assuming I had nothing in common with them as them not wanting to hang out with the dorky, bookish band geek. At the time, both of those things were probably true though. 😉

    But I did end up having some really nice conversations with people I’d never talked to when we were in school (such as the popular, athletic kid who actually considered getting a masters degree in library science – what I went to grad school for! – before settling on a masters in elementary education… who’d have thought?!?!), and in the end I’m glad I went.

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