Alumni Stories

High School Reunion
by Ashley Reiter Freedman

You lose touch, and it’s only natural. Choosing a specific post-secondary track inevitably distances you from people who were united predominately by circumstance. You always wonder: would the stereotypes of those cliques stand the test of time? Who would stay the same? Who would surprise us all?

Everything about the school looked different—even the name had changed. Wandering through an open door, I was disoriented until I saw the glass block wall curving towards the library entrance. Thank goodness for ’70s design staples.

Half of the building, which had housed my locker and advisory group (homeroom) had apparently succumbed to a mould infestation some years back. The gym had become an auditorium, where we were all meeting. There were no Pinterest-worthy pennant banners, photo collages, or even streamers. Just a carb-heavy buffet of potluck contributions, and some chairs.

Everyone looked the same, except for hair. Some more, some less. About a third of our class had come, and watching the room I was delighted to see that the adolescent walls of shyness, insecurity and perception were mostly gone. Opinions can be changed, just as can the people who formed them. People grow up. You’d hope so, after ten years, anyway.

The cultural joke of wanting to have accomplished something brag-worthy in time for your 10-year reunion surfaced in my thoughts. Lawyer? Doctor? Two strikes out for me. Author? Not yet. Thankfully, the arrogant ambitions of an ignorant 18-year old didn’t matter anymore.

What was more important, was that we had become kinder and more thoughtful people. People who might have nothing in common except a faded set of shared memories, but those were enough for us to connect and listen to what had happened to each other.

We’d lost one of our own. Steven. The guy who always could find the humour in anything. Depression is an indiscriminate demon, and it had literally eaten him alive.

When it comes to things of life and death, reputation or confidence or eloquence or significance don’t really matter. Only kindness. By the end of the evening, the little album of memories and well wishes for our former classmate was full.

So many trajectories from one small pond—world travels, medicine, journalism, mechanics, horticulture, construction, fashion, teaching—people pursuing what they love, or simply working to support what/who they love. We found things in common.

Many of our paths may not intersect again until our 25th—2031. We’ll be 43. We’ll be balder, wider. We’ll choose a classier setting than the old high school gym. Our memories will have faded to vague shadows, oddly disjointed images of postures, vocal intonations and quirky teachers.

I look forward to that future reunion with gratitude. Because even though we may not like to admit it, this group of people played parts in all of our stories—even our least favourite classmate or scarcely known acquaintance. They shaped us. Their presence presented the million choices of our thoughts, words, actions, and ultimately the cells of our character.

This is my hope for all of us: that we spend the next 15 years living fully while we still can; making a difference in our small worlds; practicing kindness towards friends and strangers alike. And when we can’t do anything else, listen. In the words of our former English teacher, “Listen up: it might change your life.”

Ashley ReiterClick here if you wish to follow Ashley’s blog.