Whoever said, “You can’t go home again” may have very well been right. This past weekend, I attended my 20 year high school reunion. (I must have been about eight years old when I graduated.) Needless to say, I was extremely excited about reliving old experiences, sharing life-long memories, and getting reacquainted with those folks with whom I had spent my “wild” youth. After all, I always considered myself a BMOC (Big Man on Campus) back at Bellaire Sr. High. Though I did not star on the football or basketball teams (old nursery school knee injury), I pretty much ruled the Hebrew Club and was quite the cut-up in “major works” calculus class. If memory serves, I broke many a cheerleader’s heart back at Bellaire (when I wouldn’t let them copy my homework). I also remember spending my lunch hour hanging with the jocks. (They “borrowed” my lunch money on a daily basis). Yes, I was quite excited to see the old gang again.
In anticipation of the weekend, I pulled out my high school yearbooks to check out pictures of some of my past “chicks,” and read all the fun comments my “cool” friends wrote about me. In reality, I barely recognized a great many people in the class, and those friends I did remember all seemed to be wearing thick glasses and had pocket protectors in their shirts. Even more upsetting, the comments were not filled with sexual innuendoes and wild stories of raising “heck” around town. Instead, I had a bunch of “I enjoyed being in algebra with you. You are really a sweet guy.” Even worse, many teachers signed my book, writing things like “It was a pleasure having you in my class.” Somehow, this truly was not how I wanted to remember high school. Still, I was sure the reunion itself would represent a return to my glory days. I watched “American Pie” a few days before to get in the mood, but even those guys looked a lot sharper than my friends in the yearbook.
THE BIG EVENT
When I arrived at the reunion, I struggled to place many of those in attendance. A lot more gray, a lot less hair on their heads, a lot more hair in their ears, more than a few extra pounds around the mid-section…and those were just the girls! The party was somewhat segregated, partially along racial, religious, and ethnic lines, but even more based on “cool” and “geeky” people. (You can guess which crowd I was hanging with.) I (re)introduced myself to many of my old friends/acquaintances and found out what they had been up to for the past 20 years. In many cases, I could tell by their expressions that they had no earthly idea who I was. Early on, I made it a point to go up and hug a former “Most Beautiful” who actually seemed to remember me until she proceeded to call me by the wrong name for the rest of the weekend. Then again, if the Prom Queen wants to call me “Bruce,” I’m more than happy to answer. (I’d even think about officially changing my name if she wasn’t already happily married.)
I was very frustrated to learn that a number of those people I was most interested in seeing had not made it to the reunion. One of my good friends from both Jr. and Sr. High was in virtually every one of my classes during those six years. I recall sarcastically telling him on the last day of school to “have a nice life.” I hope he is because I have never heard from him since that day and he didn’t attend either the 10 or 20 year reunions.
The weekend concluded with a family barbecue held at the high school. Since I had not been in the building in 20 years, I decided to take the grand tour. It seemed so much smaller than I remembered (even after undergoing a major expansion a few years ago). That day, I really started to feel old. (As if a 20 year reunion was not enough to do the trick.) As I suspected, most of my friends were married with 2.3 children; what I didn’t expect was that some of their children were actually in high school themselves. (In many cases, they wore thick glasses and had pocket protectors in their shirts just like their dads.)
LIFE GOES ON
All joking aside, I had a nice time at the reunion and was thrilled to catch up with so many old friends (even those who didn’t seem to remember me). I was even able to learn a little something from the weekend just like at school. (Those teachers who signed my book would be so proud.)
Lesson 1: Looking back at my anticipation, my memories of high school had obviously been somewhat skewed and some of my expectations of the weekend may have been unrealistic. While establishing goals will always be very important in both personal and business settings, nothing can be more disappointing than setting these goals and expectations so high, that they cannot possibly be achieved. While we should always strive to excel in every situation, when that bar is placed beyond reach and failure ensues, we are not able to enjoy even the successes that were achieved along the way. Instead, we should be able to find the positives in each and every endeavor. Even if they fail to reach our ultimate desires, we can learn from any mistakes that were made (or unrealistic expectations we had). In the case of this weekend, while I may not have been that BMOC I perceived myself to be, I did get quite a nice hug from the “most beautiful” Prom Queen.
Lesson 2: When we’re in high school, college, even those first jobs, we think that our friends will be part of our lives forever. Unfortunately, that rarely is the case. Time passes, jobs change, families grow (my dog counts as family), people move, and we lose touch with our very “best” friends. While some of us exchanged business cards, phone numbers, and email addresses, I am realistic in knowing that I will not correspond with many of these people for another 10 years when we will see each other again at our 30 year reunion (maybe). Then again, the advent of email certainly makes it easier to keep up with people and, hopefully, we can all do a better job of staying in touch in the future. After all, I just never know when I may need a place to stay in Lake Jackson, Texas, or will be looking for a business contact in the mortgage field, or could really use a shrink to analyze my problems, or just want to give an Aggie friend a little grief after the big game. Networking may be the most overused word in the business world (and certainly in these newsletters), but then again, “there’s no friend like an old friend.” (Did I just make that up?) Actually, now that I have had time to analyze and overanalyze the weekend, maybe you can go home again (especially since I just live four blocks from the old school).