I am the self-proclaimed reunion czar of my high school class. While I could say I seized power, I’m not really sure there was much opposition for the title. Planning our class reunions combines some of my best abilities: organization, party planning, and nagging people to do things. Reunions conjure up all kinds of feelings from excitement to nostalgia to some long forgotten feelings of insecurity. They can also be a big incentive to lose weight and get in shape.
One of my favorite books of all time, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, mentions a story about a rich king who asks someone who they think “is the luckiest person in the world” and when the person lists three people from long ago instead of him, the king asks, “Do you consider me lucky?” and the person answers, “How can I tell…You aren’t dead yet.” The story goes on to say how the answer haunted the king, and he had a tremendous reversal of fortune.
Now, what does a high school reunion have to do with the good luck/bad luck king? My point is that your story isn’t finished being written yet. You don’t have to fall into a particular role. I can tell you a lot of things about high school reunions. They’re surprising. The fact that I even plan my own class reunion was unpredictable, as if I could have, I’d have skipped high school altogether, and gone right to college, and my younger self would have thought that she’d never look back. People will surprise you from how they act to how they look and to what they ended up doing with their lives. I can also tell you how you won’t be able to see the heartache coming. The handsome football star that dies too young in an accident, the bubbly smiling girl who dies of breast cancer, or the many other very sad and unpredictable stories that will come from what I call “the wall.” After attending several reunions, I was always really sad when we did the table, decorated with some flowers and candles as a memorial, with the high school year book pictures of the classmates who had passed away. You’d always see their young faces so full of promise and their future ahead of them, and you’d think that you can’t believe they are gone.
One year, I suggested we do something a little more meaningful than put some candles up with the pictures. I had heard they had just finished renovating our high school building and that you could “buy a brick” that would be displayed on the entryway wall. So the committee helped organize a raffle and we raised enough to buy bricks with the names of the people who passed away in our class. There’s not a single chance that had you asked any of these people when they were younger, that if they were to pass away, who would help put together a raffle to buy a brick with their name on it at the school as a memorial, that they’d have come up with the any of the names of the people on our planning committee. You’ll never know the difference you make to other people, nor ever really know what they thought of you or what you may have meant to them. Since I really dislike my yearbook photo, I try desperately to bribe one of my assistant czars, to use a different picture of me should I make “the wall” first. So far, I haven’t found her price to grant this wish, as she always says that she doesn’t like the cowl neck sweater she’s wearing in her picture either. For the time being, we just say to each other, “Let’s just do our best to avoid the wall.” Plus, who’d plan the reunions?
Regret’s a funny thing. There are plenty of things I wish I’d said or done differently, but I remember an old quote that said something like, “While it is okay to revisit the past, it’s a mistake to dwell there.” I had plenty of people tell me when I was trying to lose weight and get fit, that it’s all genetic, or it’s just part of getting older. I’d suggest that it’s a good day to be on this side of the wall, and to remind you that your story isn’t done being written yet.