My twenty year high school reunion is approaching. As of the time of this filming, I am unsure if I can attend due to my coaching schedule and the long distance I have to travel, but if your high school experience meant something to you, I wanted to share my ten tips for surviving your high school reunion.
- Show grace. Let’s get this out of the way first. We were all awkward in some respects in high school, including the “cool kids.” We were all troubled to some degree, including the good kids. You might have been bullied. You might have been the bully. You might have been both. We all went through some things. High school can be the best of times. High school can be the worst of times. Hopefully, twenty years later, we have all grown, matured, and got better amidst the present challenges of life. Nobody wants nor needs to explain their past high school behavior twenty years later. Forgive all, leave all the nonsense in the past, and focus on the goodness in everyone today.
- Talk to anyone. If your school had a social hierarchy and various cliques, none of that matters anymore twenty plus years after the fact.
- If you had a good time in high school, reminisce about these times with your friends. That is a given and that is why we have high school reunions.
- Contrary to what popular culture has told us, high school reunions decades after the fact that I have observed in real life in the schools where I have coached will not feature people stunting and flexing with their accomplishments. If you are struggling presently in life and feeling a bit inferior, so has everyone else and likely in more difficult ways than the struggles of high school. If you are wildly successful, that is great, but your only competition is yourself because everyone is trying to achieve success on their own terms according to their purpose and not anyone else’s. Relax and enjoy the moment.
- If you went to a big high school, you will encounter classmates that you are meeting for the very first time. Acknowledge that and meet each other where you are. Consider this encounter akin to an “alumni reception” instead of a class reunion and you will have a better frame of mind to guide the conversation.
- Dress well. Depending on how formal or casual the event is, dress well for the occasion. You will meet friends, acquaintances, and even new people twenty years after you shared the same space together. You will make a first impression all over again. Make it good.
- Separate the school from the people. We like to think that a school’s legacy is bigger than any one individual, but the reality is that personnel is policy. School personnel in the years since your graduation may have made decisions that cause you to no longer support the school so as to hold them accountable. You have the right as an alumnus to speak out against the direction your school is taking, but don’t discount your classmates because of the decisions of school administrators today.
- Perhaps you felt mistreated by teachers, coaches, or administrators back when you were in school. People did you wrong, not the school. It was certain people at the school at that moment who mistreated you and gave you feelings of bitterness. Chances are those teachers, coaches, and administrators are not working at your school twenty years later. Hopefully the friendships you have from school outweigh the pain that was inflicted on you by those temporarily in charge.
- Grow your network. Find out what your classmates are doing and show genuine interest in their activities. If you find people who are working in your industry, this is a great networking, learning, and earning opportunity.
- Make an effort to strengthen ties with your people. Whether it was your high school best friends or a classmate you met for the first time at your reunion, if there was a synergy then and now, be intentional about maintaining regular email, phone, social media, and in-person contact. The older we get, the more we need friends from our childhood who get the zeitgeist of our time and place and truly understand us in ways our adult friends can never see. Don’t let the next time you speak to a great friend be twenty years from today.
This is Phil Tran, 2002 graduate of Clear Lake High School in Houston, TX saying so long. Go Falcons!