This past Saturday, I attended my 30th high school reunion.
How is it possible that I am old enough to say I did anything thirty years ago?
I definitely do not feel that old.
Well, I guess that’s not totally true.
Physically, there are times when I do feel older. When I get up in the morning, those first few steps out of the bed? I feel those. And when I try to read anything without my glasses on, I feel that.
I felt thirty years older in other ways this past weekend, too.
A lot of shit can go down in thirty years.
Since 1987 I have (among other things):
- graduated from college
- received my masters
- gotten pregnant
- gotten engaged
- had a miscarriage
- gotten divorced
- been hospitalized for depression. three times.
- gotten engaged (different guy)
- broken off the engagement
- spent two years in a physically abusive relationship
- gotten engaged a third time (to my husband)
- gotten married
- become a stepmother
- quit smoking
- given birth five times
- had 2 more miscarriages
- filed for bankruptcy
- had my house go into foreclosure
- run 5 marathons
- lost 30+ pounds
- gained 30+ pounds back
- stopped drinking
- spent hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours in therapy
Those are just the highlights.
But all of those experiences have gotten me to the point where I am today.
Which is a much more relaxed point. A much more confident point. A much more enlightened point.
Ten and twenty years ago, I spent the days, weeks, and months leading up to my high school reunions worrying about how I would look. Worrying about what other people would think about me. Whether they’d comment on my weight. On my appearance. On how well I’d weathered the past ten or twenty years.
All my thoughts were so superficial. And so dumb!
How much time I wasted stressing over the things that don’t matter one bit, really!
But these past ten years, the years from my late thirties to my late forties have been the most eye opening and the most transformative for me.
Navigating the ups and downs of life has taught me so much. Being a parent has taught me so much.
And going into this reunion, I felt so much more comfortable.
At first I wasn’t going to go. I had to coach a swim meet all weekend, and I couldn’t get there until much later than most everyone else.
Plus there’s the whole quitting drinking thing. It’s only been a couple weeks, and I didn’t want to test myself too much.
This would be the first major event I’d attend where I’d be sober. I didn’t know how I’d handle it.
But after thinking about it, and after finding out a couple people I really wanted to see would be there, I changed my mind the day before and decided to go.
I was on the pool deck on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. The pool was 50 minutes away from my house.
In the past, I would have required at least an hour to prepare. I would have spent an embarrassing amount of time leading up to the event stressing about what I was going to wear. I would have lost sleep over my weight and my appearance.
This year, I drove home after the meet, grabbed some clothes out of my closet, threw the kids into bed, sprayed myself with some extra perfume, doubled up on the deodorant, and was on my way.
I didn’t care.
For the first time in thirty years, I did not stress about my appearance.
They were gonna get the real me.
Cause that’s the one I like the most. Finally.
The real, sober, imperfect me.
Because in these last ten years, I’ve learned a lot.
More than in the 36 preceding years for sure.
And what I know is that the cool kids, the uncool kids, the smart kids, the athletic kids, the band kids, the beautiful kids, the not so beautiful kids, the tall kids, the short kids, the skinny kids and the fat kids all had one thing in common.
They all had issues.
We all had issues in high school.
And we all have issues now.
Behind everything we see on Facebook and Instagram, behind the funny stories we tell about how awesome and amazing our kids are, behind the new outfits and the recent weight loss and the perfectly planned reunion outfit, and whatever else, we are all dealing with our own shit. And whatever shit we are dealing with at this reunion, it will hopefully be gone by the time we get to the next one.
So we can handle the new and different shit we will inevitably be faced with.
I think it’s just that the older we get and the more experienced we become, the more prepared we are to handle it. Or maybe it’s just that rather than trying to hide it, we learn to embrace it.
And who knows what bullet points I will have added to my list of shit by the time the fortieth reunion rolls around.
All I know is that for the first time, I went into a high school reunion realizing that everyone there had as many issues as I did (some maybe even had more!), and also for the first time, I didn’t spend a second worrying about whether or not I was going to say or do something stupid in a drunken stupor.
I just had fun reconnecting with people and I enjoyed actually being present in the moment.
And I didn’t miss the booze. I honestly didn’t!
I can’t really explain it, but somehow, it was freeing. To be sober!
And you know what else?
Even without one drop of alcohol, I still had a lot of fun.
I don’t know.
Life is crazy. And surprising. And eye-opening. And never really dull.
I certainly don’t have everything figured out. But I sure as hell know more than I used to.
I’ll trade the smooth, unblemished, wrinkle-free skin for the wisdom and growing confidence.
I don’t know that I’ll ever really feel my age on the insides.
But I do think it’s possible that I’m finally becoming…
a grown up.