What I learned from my high school reunion continues to inspire me! There were about 120 fellow classmates from my high school class of 40 years ago. It was an interesting time reconnecting and learning what we have been up to over the past years. It was a real coming home for me; one that I did not expect. I figured that since I live in Florida and have always had some ties with Sarasota, that this visit would be no different. I was wrong on multiple counts.
As I drove the streets by my old high school, now being renovated as a museum, I felt a nostalgia that I did not expect. I had watery eyes as I thought about my high school days. This coming home was very different than other visits. Even checking into the hotel was sentimental on some level. Being somewhat introverted, I wondered how it would feel, entering the first mixer. Well, it was amazing. 2 classmates who saw me right away, brightened and were so friendly and excited. This is how the rest of the evening went for the most part. Reconnecting with others was comfortable and we all seemed to have an ease about us. Was it the setting, the occasion or our age? I was not quite sure what “it” was yet I know I felt a familiarity that I did not anticipate. Lesson 1: Going home is an experience to be cherished and revered. It is part of our heart’s longing, to be loved and to go home. Going Home was not about place, it was about safety and familiarity. We all want to feel safe, be remembered and cared for. This reunion was meeting my heart’s longing as it did for others as well.
I try not to have expectations, but I had them. I was wondering who I would see and how it would be. Well, the ones I would have bet would be the most welcoming, etc. were not at all as welcoming as I imagined. In fact, one person who I was sure would be happy to reconnect was aloof, almost cold. Wow. Still others who I did not know well, were open and shared freely. Lesson 2: Expectations often diminish experience. Remaining open and available to possibilities yields powerful connection.
People seem to follow you more on social media than you think or that they let on. Several people could tell me what I have been up to and even how photogenic I am based on my pictures on social media. I had no idea they were paying attention to the point of being able to share the details accurately. Lesson 3: Others notice and are responding to what you are putting out to the world, even when they say nothing. Never put anything out that you do not want seen, remembered and recounted in conversation.
Forty years has its wisdom that we all seemed to possess on some level. I did not make it through the entire room before the night was over. Several people came looking for me and several said they were happy to see that I was coming when I registered for the event. My first evening was delightful and full of laughs. I drove back to my hotel laughing out loud with pure heart-filled joy. I felt a peace and a happiness that enveloped me until I fell asleep smiling and grateful.
The reunion had a second evening of more social time, dinner and dancing. I met new people that I did not know from high school yet were classmates. I connected with others that I looked for Friday night. Many people thanked me and expressed gratitude for the legacy of my family. Teaching them how to sail and including many of my peers in our sailing adventures. My parents, brother and I never set out to leave the legacy that seems to have happened. It was our family’ way to include and invite others into our world as often as possible. Never was a word said about the future or planning some sort of impact, but impact it had. I heard multiple times: “Thanks to you and your family I know how to sail and I enjoy sailing.” I was humbled by the comments and the sincerity by people telling their stories about sailing with us those many years ago. A couple of classmates now have boats and have continued the boating lifestyle. Listening to one particular gentleman, it hit me, the power of legacy. Lesson 4: You are always in all ways leaving a legacy whether you are planning it or not. What is your legacy? I reflected as I drove back to my hotel about legacy and my legacy.
The second night was filled with great song, dancing and even a marriage proposal! We all had a great time and there is even talk about another reunion in 5 rather than the traditional 10 years. Then again, as our teachers always said, “there is something different about this class.” We relished connecting over the weekend. In the excitement, we are more aware of the power of re-connecting. I am grateful that I went to the reunion.
The event has truly impacted me in unexpected ways and I learned so much. I learned that returning to my hometown had a beauty all its own, how people perceive each other varies over time and life events, that you are always leaving a legacy so be aware of what that legacy is at any given time, people are paying attention to what you are doing more than you are aware and expectations can tarnish a great opportunity.
I returned home, driving along the beach. I stopped and took a long walk on the beautiful white sand. My heart opened as I breathed the salt air and honored my younger days. It allowed me to more fully honor my wisdom from a life being well lived. My high school reunion was much more than I thought it was and I am humbly grateful for the experience. To all my classmates and teachers: Your presence in my life has deepened my appreciation for the power of real connection.