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What I Learned At My 30-Year Class Reunion

I’m back home in New York after a whirlwind trip to the West coast that included heading back to my 30-year high school class reunion. Please, stop right now; I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math, I’m 48. Frankly I find that hard to believe; I mean, wasn’t it like five years ago I donned cap and gown and walked across the stage to accept my diploma from Del Campo High School? Um, no it was not.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I went to high school with some really cool people and since I don’t live in Sacramento anymore, I was looking forward to reconnecting. Boy was I in for a surprise. There were actually three big things I took away from the night.

1. I AM STILL A GEEK: Yes, although I have partied at the White House, interviewed First Ladies and senators, beautiful actors and breathtaking models and am now utilizing all I have learned to forge my own path, this simple and fundamental fact remains; I am still a geek. Even at 48 I’m loud, awkward and stick out like a sore thumb. In high school, I wanted to be a cute, petite cheerleader  who grew into a cute, petite adult. Instead I was a tomboy who eventually struck an uneasy truce with skirts. To this day, I’d much rather be in sweats than a silk dress.

 

2. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY MEMORY?? I was having a chat with one of my classmates and he mentioned something about me at out 20-year class reunion. “No, no, I didn’t go to our 20 year class reunion.” I told him. He proceeded to not only remind me that I WAS there, but he also remembered what I was wearing! Seems I had been complaining about the fact that I’d spotted the long, flowing and expensive pants I was wearing on a drag queen the night before. Why didn’t I remember that? As the night wore on and I saw more old friends, the fog that had a choke-hold on my memory, lifted a tiny bit. Yes, I remember the flowing pants that the drag queen and I had a penchant for. I remember the woman who spearheaded that reunion. But honestly, that’s it. I can only attribute that to the fact that I have lived about three lifetimes since then; cut me some slack.

 

3. YOU CAN NEVER GO HOME AGAIN: I say this with great melancholy.  I love and miss my classmates but the fact remains, the ones who still live in Sacramento are members of a club I am no longer a part of. Even if they see each other once every three months, that’s still way more than the once every ten years that I partake of.  I also think it has something to do with how you viewed your high school years. I didn’t really have what could be called a robust high school experience (um, yeah, see number one). High school for this geeky kid was more of a means to an end. I didn’t date, wasn’t part of the “in” crowd and was sort of, just goofy looking (do I need to remind you to see number 1 again?). That said I did make some amazing friends and, because I didn’t blossom until well after high school, I was forced to rely on something more than looks to get people to notice me. That’s a skill that has served me well throughout my life.

In the end I had a great time at my reunion. I thought everyone looked great; a little more gray than the last time but still fantastic. They were pretty much the same as high school, solid citizens only now, without the teenage insecurity. We exchanged information and Facebook accounts and promise to keep in touch. Sadly though, I know we’ll all get busy with our lives, me on the East coast, them out there. But for just a few hours, it was 1981 all over again; it made me realize how much we’d all grown and how much I miss them.

What about you, did you attend your class reunion? How did it make you feel? Do you think you can ever go back? And what did you learn about yourself? Let me hear ya!

22 Comments

  1. Janet

    August 18, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I have been to my 10 & 15. I enjoyed them. If you’re willing to put away the baggage for a night, it’s a good time to remember who you were and what you did and laugh at the foolishness. It’s kind of a good check-point to see if your 18 year old you would like the later you.

  2. Regina Richards

    August 18, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Sounds like you had a great time at the reunion. I’m 50 and have never attended my high school reunions. I’ve always been either too broke or too busy. But reading your post makes me almost wish…naa.

  3. Auntie Lisa

    August 18, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I only went to my 20th. Your section #3 paragraph pretty much sums up how that went. Most of my friends were in choir and drama and none of them were present. A couple of others I was friends with or kind of knew were there. Being the only choir member in attendance, I was asked to lead the singing of the school hymn. Glad they asked me ahead of time, because it took awhile to remember it!

    My 30th was last year (didn’t go), and I really had very little desire to attend. Except it would have been nice for everybody to know that I finally did get married. 🙂

    P.S. — Looks like all those Spanxes did their job! 😉

  4. Jacki Marie

    August 18, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I didn’t go to the 5, 10, or 20th. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling good enough about myself to go. Recently, because of Facebook, I’ve reconnected with a bunch of my friends from my all girls high school and I’m feeling a lot like you Rene. There are more things that I’ve forgotten, than I remember. I read through my yearbook and I realize that nothing has changed for me either. Still a dork, still crazy. 🙂
    We are having a 31 year mini- reunion next month that I am attending and helping to put together. I’ll report back after going.

  5. Will Jones

    August 18, 2011 at 9:05 am

    1. Geeks rule the world! Being a jock may have been cool in school, but now geeks like Sergey Brin and Larry Page (founders of Google), Mark Zuckerburg, and of course Bill Gates probably have more clout than every muscle head in the NFL combined. And a lot of those geeks that use to dream of dating the cheerleaders are now being chased by supermodels! LOL
    Be proud if you’ve managed to hold on to your geekiness: it’s in style now.

    2. What happened to your memory was you traded a lot of the trivial things that were just taking up space for things that matter. We all do.

    3… And even if you could go back… would you?

    PS No disresepct to any of your old friends but you look MUCH younger than any of the other ladies in your first pic. 😉

  6. juli

    August 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

    You expressed many of the reasons why I didn’t kick my butt to make it. Though I really would have enjoyed seeing certain people, But facebook has given me some reunions anyways :). It would have been great to see you Rene. I was looking at all the pictures and it looked like the same cliches were still the same cliches…lol..Anyways I am a lot more comfortable behind the bar rather than sitting at the bar. Glad you had fun.

  7. america

    August 18, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I went to my 20th class reunion and it mad me realize THAT THEY WERENT EVIL DEVIL SPAWNED CHILDREN. I realized that I liked them and we had the SAME DAMN TEENAGED ISSUES at the time. I’ve reconnected with alot of the via facebook and I LIKE THEM.

  8. Monica

    August 18, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I loved this piece Rene! I laughed and identified with not being a part of the club anymore. We will be celebrating our 25th next year and I’m not sure if I want to attend. My classmates get together in Florida often, they even send flowers as a group to classmates that have passed away. I just don’t feel the need to go home for every event they have. I guess it’s called LIFE, plus the fact that I live hundreds of miles away. Maybe I will go to my 25th next year. After all, facebook has kept us connected, even if we don’t talk as often.

  9. juli

    August 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I would like to see mixed years reunions. I tended to have older friends in high school and often feel I’m missing out on seeing old friends when they have a reunion. Would be fun to see a mix of people from different classes.
    .

  10. AndiSnark

    August 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I loved this post. I didn’t go to my 30th but got to enjoy all the pictures and memories on Facebook.

  11. Carol

    August 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    My 30th is coming up next year. I’m hittin the gym. 😉

  12. Becky

    August 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    So funny! I was at that reunion and “geek” is not a word that anyone would ever think to describe Rene! First of all, we are all enamored by the fact that she is a celebrity, she looked fabulous, and has a personality that shines (awkward and sticks out like a sore thumb? hardly 😉
    I teach in a CIS depart (computer information science) so I work with hard core geeks -same polo shirt and shorts worn daily, diets consisting of Mountain Dew and Top Ramon and send emails about any new gadget that has hit the technology news.
    I think we all were extremely insecure in high school and remember ourselves quite different then another would describe us. I can assure all that Rene was “not” an awkward geek in high school. I remember playing being on sports-a-rama and powder-puff football teams in high school (she was the fast one)…so most would describe her as athletic and always a big smile on her face.
    PS – I was the one displaying the drunk dancing techniques mostly because I loved the way my skirt twirled.
    PSS – I was acting my age.

  13. Jeannie

    August 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Rene,

    First of all, you look fabulous. Second of all, wish I could have seen you at our reunion. Third, I feel the same as you did in #3. Having moved to California during my Junior year and only being there for 3 classes during the day and only 1 class half my senior year (graduated early), I really did not know much of anyone that went to DC. I was not with the “in” crowd either. I know the names of my classmates but that is about it. No one would have remembered me anyways. I have only recently connected with a few of the girls (who are pictured with you by the way) since FB started and we have formed some very nice friendships. That being said, we do continue to live our chosen life, take care of our children, our careers and hopefully will say hi to those we shared some high school memories with in passing. Hope to be one of those memories for you from time to time! Take care my friend!

    Jeannie

  14. Lawrence

    August 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I went to my 15 year reunion which by the time all the planning was done was actually 16 years. I had gotten word of it by running into someone in my class who I wasn’t friends with anymore. Needless to say my first reaction was “I think I am busy that day, but might make an appearance” just so I had an out.

    When the invite was posted to Facebook, I saw that it was being held at a bar 2 blocks from my apartment. My reaction was “could you have picked a place any closer to where I live?” I really didn’t want to go. I wasn’t even curious what people were up to.

    So then I decided to go because people were making an effort to be there from out of town. However I was going late, so I was not the first person to get there.

    Needless to say I was glad I went. I thought the inner High Schooler in me would come out. The popular girls (think gossip girl meets mean girls) were all there. They were all married with kids and were happy to be out of the house for the night. They were actually interested to hear what I was up to since high school. I was even asked to go out for a late night dinner after the reunion. It was nice to be part of the in crowd for at-least a couple of hours. Of course some people hadn’t changed and I kept a safe distance after saying hello.

    All in all I am glad I went, but now that the 20 year reunion is in the works, I think I am going to sit that one out.

  15. Karen

    August 18, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    What I learned at our 30th reunion, Rene, was the same thing I learned at the 5, the 10, and the 20 and is a lesson I try to teach my children all the time. And that is to never stereotype someone in school and assume you know exactly who they are…even your best friends. The quiet small boy that sits next to you in history shows up to the 5 year all grown up and very handsome. The athlete that you never see in the academic classes shows up to the 20 as a published author. The geeky, skinny girl that is the class clown shows up to the 10 and is an anchor in Atlanta and then goes on to the national media scene (yes, you!) I was far from being a cheerleader – probably a bigger geek than Rene, but one of my most memorable conversations was with one of the cheerleaders. We connected at the 5 year reunion like we never had in school. We all share the bond of childhood and for one night in every 10 we have the chance to let it all slip away and celebrate that childhood and our evolving adulthood.

    And so to my children I continue to tell them to accept and reach out to the people sitting next to them in classes now. I hope that they do this successfully. If every child does it, maybe long forgotten tragedies like Columbine wouldn’t happen. Every reunion I have a new story to add to my list. I wouldn’t miss one for the world.

    And I look forward to seeing you at the 40th Rene! If not sooner!

  16. Tambrlyn

    August 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Rene you were not what I would call a geek in school. I was an outsider in high school and had 1/2 a dozen- 1 dozen friends that I ran around with. I did attend the 10 year but not the 20 year. I knew of many because I had been in school, brownies, and girl scouts with them. I was left out around 6 grade because of someone I befriended and became one that other kids picked on. My mom and dad taught me to help, listen, and talk to all because you never know what you will find on the inside. Which I tried to instill in me own kids (2 are grown and I think I did a fair job) and the youngest reaches out to others in his class (it’s a specail education class). I talked to some people at the reunion that I knew in high school and some that I just knew of I enjoyed myself even though some of the ones I was close to were taken from me and their families. I am still mostly an outsider which is okay, because the friends I do have I am pretty close to and I have a few I wish I was closer to and maybe someday the bonds will grow as I have realized that life is short and to enjoy every moment as you never know what is around the corner. FB has helped put me back in touch with some and I hope my olive branch is met.
    I learned that many were and are feeling the same way. Here is to reconnecting and hoping to hear from some of you.
    Hope to see you and all in 10.

  17. dianthe

    August 18, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    i’ve been to all my reunions – the 5 (yes, we had a 5 and it was more like a continuation of a graduation party with legal drinking, but we had one!), the 10, the 15 and i even helped plan the 20 last summer – and even after swearing that i will never plan another reunion, i’m looking forward to the 25!!

    i was fortunate enough to go to a small Catholic school – there were just under 200 kids in our graduating class but it always felt like family – i was probably part of what was could have been considered the “cool” crowd but in my opinion we were all fairly cool – we all knew one another and even though we may not have consistently hung out together, everyone was always welcome – i know my experience is probably not the norm, but i look back on high school with awesome memories and would do it again in a heartbeat!

    the one thing i will say about Facebook and other social media is that it has made it easier to keep up with everyone – for the most part, we had all reconnected to some degree before the reunion so all of that awkward “soo … who are you again?” and weird initial conversations were gone and we were able to relax and have a good time!!

  18. Karen M.

    August 19, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Rene,
    I had the best time at our 30th reunion! It was so fun to reconnect with you and the rest of our class that came. I even admitted to my crush that I had a crush on him way back when!
    I remember in high school having a blast in track and you and I were always up to something sneaky. I remember laughing so hard my abs hurt! (Don’t have to worry about the abs anymore as they are very well insulated and in there somewhere! LOL). We always had a way of causing “fun” trouble and never did any serious harm. (tee peeing people’s houses occasionally comes to mind.).
    I am so proud of how you’ve overcome adversity and made something positive come out of a serious issue (breast cancer awareness). Susan G. Komen would be proud of what you’ve accomplished. I know I am proud to call you friend! Thanks for the great night at the 30th. As your new publicist I must insist that anyone who did not get a personally autographed copy of “Good Enough Mother” e mail me immediately as I have a few autographed copies left! 😉 Take care!

  19. Beth @ TheAngelForever

    August 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Hmmm. . . Rene a geek?! Welcome to the Geeks-R-Us Club. I think we need an official place on the web. Makes me think back to you with all of your tech gadgets at Disney in March.

    Let’s see my 10th and 15th reunion never happened. My class did not have their act together. I was not going since I went to Disney World during that time. Oh well. I keep in touch with those I want to from high school on Facebook and in real life. Not into spending a lot of money to watch people get drunk and act all stuck up and fake. Whoa – did I just say that? Feeling snarky 😉

  20. Tiffany

    August 20, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I wanted to attend my 10th, but my brother got married a couple of weeks after and I couldn’t afford two cross-country trips in the same month.

    (I guess I should probably keep my mouth shut about the fact that I was born in 1981? Doh!)

  21. Rene Syler

    August 21, 2011 at 7:12 am

    @Tiffany: BORN in 1981? Grrrrrrr 🙂

  22. Kim

    February 16, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Rene, I know this is an old post, but I do appreciate your insight. I am grappling with whether or not to attend my 30 year reunion this summer. I have never been to any of the reunions and, although I am free and going would not be a hardship, I just don’t know if it’s for me. I live far away from my high school town now and none of my family remains there. The section “You Can Never Go Home Again” validates all my reasons for not wanting to go. I think you have just helped me make up my mind.

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