Everything I Need to Know I Learned at my High School Reunion
Recently my high school graduating class celebrated its 30th reunion. This was an extravagant three day affair that began at a waterside bar, set sail on a lavish dinner cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway, and concluded with an event at the beach. I must explain that I went to high school in one of the best places on the planet, Jupiter, FL. If you don’t know Jupiter let me give you a brief summary-it is a bustling area, close to big cities yet far enough to keep a small town feel. Bordered by the Intracoastal Waterway, the Loxahatchee River, and the Atlantic Ocean, Jupiter boasts some of the best beaches in Florida. The sunsets are amazing, the bars and restaurants are plentiful, and the people are warm and friendly-in a word, paradise.
I wasn’t sure what this weekend would bring. I was hoping for a fun, relaxing time to connect with old friends. I was impressed by the organization and the way everyone came together to commemorate our time in high school, celebrating the past and the present. But, what I was most inspired by was what I learned from this reunion that I can take with me into the future.
Change is good-our school changed, the town changed, and we changed and that was okay. Change is good; we benefit in many ways from change. Change in one’s life can create challenges and challenges create opportunities for personal growth. By embracing small changes that we have control over we gather strength and learn to more easily accept the big changes in which we have no control.
Happiness is not always measured by staying the same; it can also be measured by how much we change. In the infamous words of Helen Keller "When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."
Friendships are a vital part of life-looking around at the events I was thrilled to see so many people that I could call a friend. According to Mayo clinic “Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship. Friends can also increase your sense of belonging and purpose; boost your happiness and reduce stress; improve your self-confidence and self-worth; help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one; and encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits.”[i]
Friendships can take on a variety of forms from casual relationships to those that reside on a deep emotional level, and everything in between. Friends that exist on an emotional plan are life-long and no matter how often you see these people you can always pick up right where you left off. These are the friends that I call “old shoes.” Always comfortable, always interested, and always there when you need them.
The weekend wasn’t long enough to connect with everyone who attended my reunion. There were many I did not have the pleasure of catching up with and this resonated with many of my classmates. For those who I missed, I hope to catch up another time. Whatever your friendships, grasp them and bask in the joy that they bring.
Life is better at the beach-or really just near the water. Not only is water essential for survival it also offers mental and emotional benefits.
“Marine biologist, Wallace J. Nichols, believes that we all have a ‘blue mind’ -- as he puts it, ‘a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment’ -- that's triggered when we're in or near water.
‘We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what's broken,’ Nichols writes in Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.”[ii]
Maybe it was fate or just good planning that every event during the weekend was on or around the water. From the waterside bar, to the dinner cruise, and finally the beach we spent an enormous amount of the weekend surrounded by water. With each breath we absorbed the negative ions created by the movement of the water and entered a state of serenity. Maybe that is why everyone is saying that the weekend was amazing.
You can go home again-Thomas Wolfe wrote the novel “You Can’t Go Home Again” portraying the message that you can’t recover the past. Maybe to go home again you don’t need to recover the past, but instead look at it fondly and make a future to remember. Going home again can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience. It may seem that attending a celebration of a time as immature adolescents would be a horrifying experience, but instead it made me realize just how far I have traversed since I was seventeen and this was truly an enlightening experience.
Planning is everything-organizing an event of any kind can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t even know who will be on your list of attendees. From finding “lost” classmates to designing artistic t-shirts and table centerpieces to coordinating hotel rooms and a charter cruise, the reunion was expertly planned and supervised. There were many people who helped with this event and one specific person who lead the way; I would like to thank each and every one of you, without your insight and ingenuity it would not have been a weekend to remember.
May we all make a conscious effort to keep in touch with our friends, accept change, and spend more time near the water.