Thoughts on my 20th High School Reunion

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I am wiping down the counters after lunch in California.

16,000 kilometers away, at this very minute, someone is wiping down the counters after my 20th high school reunion in Pretoria, South Africa.

I wish I could have been there.

I have spent much of today reading posts on a Facebook by names long-since filed in my 1993-folder. I’ve skipped around their profiles: beautiful, accomplished, smiling women. Women with children. Women with careers. Women with stories.

I feel a great many things as I reminisce, but perhaps the greatest of these is a feeling of longing. My 16-year old self so badly wanted to belong. I longed to “be”: to be accepted, to be loved, to be known, to make a difference.

I never really felt I did belong at high school. I wrote yesterday that “we feel we belong not when our very best self is accepted by others, but when we know our worst self, our failed self, our real-me-self is accepted by others.” As I reflect back on high school, though. I realize that perhaps the reason I didn’t feel I belonged was not because my real-self wasn’t accepted, but because I was so sure that it wouldn’t be that I never showed it.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m wondering whether that might not be true of belonging too.

I felt out, so I concluded I was out. I saw people I judged to be cooler than me, and so I concluded that they thought me less cool than they. I saw people I admired making friends with each other, and assumed that they wouldn’t want to make friends with me.

And because I longed to “be”, to belong, but couldn’t… Instead I spent my time at high school trying to “do”. Not seeing many opportunities for friendship, I pursued activities. I belonged to clubs more than I did to people.

I wanted to go to my high school reunion because there are so many people I wanted to say this to: “hi, I always thought you were great. You were kind and clever and you made me laugh. I would have loved to be your friend but I was too scared to say so. I hope it’s not too late to say so today.”

And then we could raise our glasses and remember the beauty of irises, the shortness of green dresses, the sternness of Mrs van Zyl and the strangeness of wearing name badges. Twenty years later, I’m finally ready to belong.

Happy reunion, girls.


This post is day 12 of 31 days of belonging. For a complete list of posts, click here.

Photo credit: Bronwyn R-J via Facebook

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10 thoughts on “Thoughts on my 20th High School Reunion”

  1. Franca Vallinoti

    The reality is that not many of us felt we belonged, even those who had friends, who played in a team sport and who were part of the boarding school clan. I think that’s okay because its from that experience that we seek to find out who we are and its what we find that makes us realise that until you are truly comfortable with who you are, you will never be able to give to others the ‘real’ you and as such you will never truly belong. Thanks for making me take a moment out to ponder on my years of ‘angst’ 🙂

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  3. Your blog made me think back to my 10 year reunion at the same green dress, name tag and blazer school.
    I remember school as a place I did feel I ‘belonged’, I was part of many groups, diverse groups and I loved it all. I had the metal badges on my blazer to prove it!
    Yet when it came to the reunion the badges had changed, the new badges read: married, children, successful, entrepreneur, well travelled, home owner, car owner, divorced and many others. And this time, I could identify with none of the badges.
    My life had turned out so differently to those around me and there was no sense of belonging and many feelings of alienation. I left thinking that the school years had been great, but now the relationships where different and I was different.
    The next morning I climbed into my old car, left my rented townhouse and went to the place where I belonged, along with people of all ages and races, cultures and ideas. But here I belonged, here the badge that mattered was the one that read ‘Child of God’, ‘Sister in Christ’ and there I belonged and still do…

  4. My 50th is coming up next year…and what you have written here really resonates with me. Especially the last paragraphs. It astounds me that some of my old classmates have become my Facebook friends, and even “like” things I post sometimes. Why did I not pursue friendship
    earlier?! You have at least partially answered this for me.

    1. These reunions certainly are big milestones, aren’t they? I’m so glad I had this opportunity for reflection (and glad for you too). I felt like
      God did some healing work in me this past weekend, and I am thankful.

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