It’s been said that you can’t go home again- that attempts to relive youthful memories always fail because time changes everything. I used to think that too, but I was wrong. Last weekend I returned home for my high school reunion, having missed every single one since graduation. It was never intentional – life just got in the way. A lot of years have slipped by and time has eroded memories, and I’m guilty of letting too many miles pass between hello’s, phone calls, texts, and emails, especially to many people who mattered 30+ years ago.
In an instant the years fell away.
For two days it was all about seeing old friends and missing those who couldn’t be there, catching up on the paths each of us had taken, sharing memories, and laughing about stories I’d forgotten (especially the ones that were horribly embarrassing). As my friend Butch put it, we stopped being jocks, nerds, rah-rahs, and beauty queens and kings – instead we were just a group of old friends getting together again after too much time apart. People say that you shouldn’t live your life looking in the rear view mirror and I’ve always believed that all that matters in life is what’s ahead. But something has always pulled me back to high school, the friendships that were made there a long time ago, and the memories that still endure years later.
I believe the friendships you make early in life are the ones you hold close – the same ones that can bring you home again.
Those four years were a bittersweet period that few of us truly appreciated back then – a time of transition and change you could never wrap your hands around. There were tears, fears, laughter, worries, heartache, and heartbreak twisted around classes, homework, and tests about subjects most of us had already forgotten by graduation. Crushes, phone calls, and late night conversations with girls who saw you as a “friend” when you wanted desperately to be something more than that. Football keg parties on Saturday nights, long classes spent watching the minutes fall slowly off the clock, and too many stupid, immature things that were said and done – the kind of things that still make you cringe years later (while hoping that God has a sense of humor about stuff like that). Some of us even grew up a little. Or grew up a lot. You learned to love and you learned about hurt, and many of us forged relationships that remain strong years later.
Over the past few months as the reunion took shape and many of us reconnected again, I loved how easily we all slipped back into comfortable grooves. You spend so much time trying to get out of high school that you miss what you have beyond the classrooms and how special each friendship can be. When we graduated we talked about the future as well as where we were going and how we would change the world, but last weekend it was nice to be reminded of where we started. Age, or maybe maturity, has a way of making things clearer – at least the things that are still meaningful.
When I drove home, I felt a familiar hurt – I wasn’t sure if it was nostalgia kicking my ass or the kind of sadness that comes from genuine, heartfelt good byes.
Or maybe it was the realization that no matter how far you go or what you try to do, you can’t do any of it if you don’t remember where you came from. And that no matter where you’re going, it’s the friends you have who make it all worthwhile.