This weekend is my 20th high school reunion. That’s what I tell people anyway, because it’s just easier. But high school is a bit of a misnomer for us. Our class of 100 went to school together for twelve years.
When you go to school with people for that long, it’s not just high school. It’s your whole childhood.
You walk with each other down the long hallway on the first day of first grade and you pretend not to be scared. You lose teeth together. You chase each other on the playground. You get lice. You learn bad words. You get braces. You get left out. You fall in love for the first time.
You suffer through bad hairstyles and every fashion craze imaginable. Remember that short stint when girls wore ties? I do. And if I didn’t, my mother thoughtfully saved a picture of it.
You get your braces off. You get your ears pierced. You get zits. You get glasses.
You learn the power of words. You gossip. You talk about people behind their backs. You learn how bad it feels when you’re the person being talked about. You pass notes. You get embarrassed when a teacher reads that note in front of the class. You make collages and mix tapes and write in each other’s yearbooks.
You learn how to be brave together. To take risks. To try out for a team or a play. To defend a position. To not follow the crowd. To lead the crowd. To ask for help. To say “I love you.” You listen to contraband music. You get drunk for the first time. You think you’re so much older than you are.
You learn things you didn’t want to know. You learn that Santa isn’t real. You learn that you’re not invincible. You learn that not everything is black and white. You learn your parents don’t know everything. You think your friends do. You learn they don’t either.
You discover what stress is. You study for tests, take the SAT, give your senior speech, and write your college applications. You sit in the front yard for two hours, waiting for the mailman to bring you a letter from the college you love the most and when it comes, you have your friend open it because you’re too scared.
You face rejection together. You get your heart broken. By your first love. By your friends. By your coach. By a teacher who didn’t think your paper was as good as you did. By a college.
You learn what success feels like. You get an A. You score the winning goal. You win the election. You get into college.
You do all of this for twelve years. Together.
And when you come together twenty years later, you remember all of these things. You look at the faces of people you still see every day and people you haven’t seen in decades. And you can see not just who they were, but also who you were. The child, the adolescent, the teenager.
Because you didn’t just go to school together. You grew up together.