Stepping out of the van, I felt my pulse. My heart was pounding. The shot of tequila I “borrowed” from my parent’s liquor cabinet did nothing to calm my nerves.
Behind two swinging doors stood my past – bandies, nerds, cheerleaders, athletes, the “cool” kids and everyone in between. (It wasn’t until after the reunion that I realized we all share the most important titles — moms/dads, aunts and uncles.)
Saying a quick prayer to the Reunion Gods, I slowly opened the doors and surveyed the room.
A man sitting at the bar turned around and hugged me.
“It’s good to see you,” he said to me.
“Who are you?” were the only words that popped out of my mouth. (It was at this point that I became terrified that I may not recognize anyone from my class)
“I’m Eric, friends with your brother! How is Zac?” he said.
Whew … so not only did I not know the guy, turns out he didn’t even graduate with me in 1996.
At least I wasn’t going crazy.
But the hug from the then “stranger” seemed to break the ice.
I thought to myself, “Well, I didn’t know him, and that turned out OK, the rest of this weekend should be a piece of a cake.”
And it was – thanks to my once shy husband who was up for anything. Maybe it was because he didn’t go to his 20 year class reunion, so he was living vicariously through me? Either way, by the end of the first night, he was playing flip-cup with 10 other people while I sat on the front porch talking to other classmates.
Over the course of two days about 10 percent of 200 classmates came together to reminisce about our “glory days” 20 years ago. I wished more people had the courage to show up.
We walked through our old high school one last time before bulldozers plan on tearing it down brick by brick.
For one last time, I sat inside the study hall where I wrote notes to boys I wanted to date. For one last time, I walked past the lockers that stored actual books. For one last time, I stood inside the gymnasium where I danced at prom with Seth.
After touring the high school, the trips down memory lane continued at a classmate’s home until 12:15 a.m. (Kudos to her for opening her home to all of us for the mixer … it was the best part of the entire trip back home.)
And not one person cared about the past.
For the first time in 20 years, no one felt like they had to prove anything to anyone else.
My one newfound friend said it best. She said, “Melissa, we all have a backpack.”
She’s right. Each and every one of us has stuff from our past that made us the people we are today. It may be good, bad and in between, but it’s ours.
Maybe she’s been right all along, only I never gave her the chance 20 years ago to get close to me. Maybe instead of putting myself out there, I closed myself off – afraid that if I showed the “real” Melissa no one would have liked me.
I can’t change who I was in 1996 – no one can – but we all can move forward and continue to be the best versions of ourselves.