Addicted to novelty since 2001

Reflections on a reunion

Last night was my 20th high school reunion. It was held in a night club in West Vancouver. That, on the face of it, sounds bizarre to me. West Van has night clubs? Or at least ‘club’, singular. Later on in the evening, there were go-go dancers.

It’s a curious experience, a reunion like this. With the exception of three or four classmates, I really hadn’t seen the rest of my 150 classmates for ten–there’s was a previous reunion–or twenty years. I spent six to 12 formative years among these people, and then never saw or, in some cases, thought of them for the next 20.

There was more hugging than I expected. There was instant familiarity with a few people, and plenty of back-slapping camaraderie and clinking of glasses. More than one person told me that I looked “exactly the same” as I did in high school. Were they being kind or just drunk?

Why do you go to a reunion? To see old friends. To compare your waist, hair and credit line to your former peers. I was also quite curious sociologically in the ordinary experiment of a high school class.

For example, of the 40 or 50 people I spoke to or about that evening, I was the only one who was both married and childless. I talked to three classmates who had four children, and several more who had three. The friends I’ve acquired as an adult are considerably less prolific. Is that because I number a bunch of artists and entrepreneurs among the latter group, and they express their procreative instincts in other ways?

Many of my classmates had left West Vancouver, but not gone very far. There’s a healthy population of former Sentinel Secondary students in Vancouver’s other suburbs–White Rock, Coquitlam, Surrey and so forth. Plenty have gone eastward to Ontario.

The evening also reinforced an idea I first read in Stumbling on Happiness: our internal happiness meter is fairly predetermined, and doesn’t actually stray very far from its initial setting. People who were upbeat and chipper in high school seemed to be the same way at 37 or 38. By the same token, if someone was a standoffish and brittle in grade 12, they hadn’t warmed much in the ensuing two decades.

It did occur to me that a subset of people in my graduating class didn’t like high school. So they’re unlikely to come to the reunion. On the other hand, they might have turned out to be the most interesting adults.

Whether you loved or hated high school, I recommend the experience of a reunion like this. It’s a rare thing.

5 Responses to “Reflections on a reunion”

  1. Stewart

    An interesting experience. For me, the teachers were the biggest surprise. I left the area almost before I finished High School. I went back for a reunion 20 years and was somewhat distressed at the time that many people, as you found Darren, had not really changed. It felt like closure. Now I can enjoy the fond memories without distraction!

    Darren Reply:

    There weren’t any teachers at this reunion. I didn’t have a strong yearning to see them, in truth.

  2. Andrea

    I enjoyed my 20th. I was especially impressed by this one guy who went around to everyone, said he had been a jerk (stronger word, actually) in high school, that he might have treated them miserably but didn’t know because he did it so often, and that he was really sorry and trying to be a better person at 38. I thought that showed a lot of character. He seemed to really mean it.

  3. filmgoerjuan

    My 25th is next year and thanks to the magic of Facebook, I’m getting a preview of all the people who might be attending. I’m thinking of skipping it mostly because I don’t really know what the point is (I skipped the 15th or 10th or whatever the previous one was). I guess my desire to reconnect with people I’ve either never known very well or from whom I drifted apart years ago is lacking. Of course, I’d feel much the same way about a prospective family reunion. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeonly jerk.

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