The Reunion Reaction

Originally posted 2015-10-16 22:14:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

My 25th reunion (shut up, I know I’m old) was last weekend, and literally right up until the night before, I wasn’t going to go.  I didn’t feel like taking the time to head back to New England with everything going on with our group, our show, the studio, the real world job…there were a hundred reasons for me to simply skip it in my mind.  They were all perfectly logical, reasonable and rational.  Then you factor in, well, sometimes the past is better left in the past, and my mind was pretty well made up.

As you can no doubt guess, I made my way back to my old stomping grounds anyway, where I not only had a phenomenal time, but I managed to learn something about myself along the way…

All day Friday, I was catching all kinds of Hell from people planning on going to reunion.  Most were still local there in the area, but there were people hopping on planes from Florida and even England to make their way there.  People who also had kids, jobs, lives and insane schedules.  People who I adored in high school, and people who…well, let’s just say we weren’t the closest of friends back then and leave it at that.  But they were all going, and they were all making a mockery of my excuses reasons for not showing up.

And so, as I sat in our studio on Friday night running the boards and keeping an eye on one of the new shows that’s just getting started, I caved a little bit.  I had mentioned the flurry of messages to my wife who simply said “You know you’re going to hate yourself if you don’t go…”, and so I figured I would try.  I figured that I’d at least make a token search for airline tickets, and then be able to say that I’d tried, but I couldn’t find any available flights, or that they were way too expensive to justify the trip because I certainly wasn’t driving thirteen hours to get there…I mean, surely this was impossible to pull together for the very next day…

tixshirl1Damn you,

Flight leaving less 12 hours later staring me in the face for $209 round trip.  Oh, and there’s a hotel available in case I needed one, and would I like to book a rental car at the same time…

Seriously, damn you,  And also thank you.

wireplanesBecause there I was at 9am, all checked in at the airport and ready to go.  I didn’t tell anyone I was coming…I guess I still wanted the “out” if I felt the need.  An uneventful flight later, I was at Logan airport in Boston.  I hadn’t rented a car, figuring that I was going to be drunk and not wanting a DUI in another state, so I made my way to the cab stand where I was quoted the laughable price of $160 to get me to my hotel in Nashua, NH, but thankfully Uber came to the rescue with an estimated fare of $70 and a 4 minute pickup wait, so that was easy enough.  And it was on that drive that the anxiety really started kicking in.

What the hell was I doing back here?  Why did I cave to the pressure?  What if this whole thing sucks?  What if this is just a huge waste of time and money?  What I still hated everyone I’d hated?  What if everyone just wanted to do was rehash that nonsense from my past?  What if I’ve just made a enormous mistake…?

The anxiety continued to build as I got to the hotel and waited the few hours until the reunion started.

12096097_760526320724722_3681221922123447653_nI paced outside the hotel waiting on the Uber that would take me to my reunion, chain smoking like a fiend and questioning every decision I’d made in the last twenty four hours, not to mention the last 25 years.  My ride arrived, and I began the journey down Flashback Avenue.  The new shopping plazas and the streets that hadn’t changed a bit.  I had him drive me past my old house on the way. And my old high school. We took a loop around some sights I wanted to remember…and a few I wanted to forget but probably never will.

The weight in my chest was damn near crushing me.  This was all a huge mistake and WTF had I been thinking and…

…and then, without me noticing, we were at the club where the reunion was being held.  We were in the parking lot.  I was there.  My heart was literally hammering in my chest, and I’m quite sure I had the beginning of a cold sweat breaking out.  The driver was a great guy.  He could obviously see the hesitation in my eyes and on my face, and he simply said “Hey man…it’s kind of a slow night.  Why don’t you go ahead into your reunion, and I’ll just sorta hang out here in the parking lot for a while.  I’ve got nothing else going on.  You want to bail, I’ll be here.  Here’s my card if it gets weird later for you, but I’ll probably hang here for, oh, probably like an hour or so.  If you have fun and go out later, give me a call…I’ll get you back to the hotel.”

The world needs more people like him.

I started walking up to the door, and figured it was a good time for a last smoke before heading inside, and as I was finishing that up, I heard “Phillips?!” behind me.  I spun, and it was one of my old friends…one of the ones who’d been giving me hell the day before.  He walked up, said “I can’t believe you made it!  You said you weren’t coming!”  He grabbed me in a bear hug…and all was right with the world.  Just that quickly, all of the anxiety drained out of my body, and we made our way upstairs.

12115837_10153679496671100_4880509890764781805_nI couldn’t be happier that I went.  Nobody cared about things from 25 years ago or more, other than to laugh and make jokes about our shared adventures.  I laughed with so many old friends that I hadn’t seen in decades.  I danced to an old buddy’s band that was playing.  I drank drinks and clinked glasses with damn near everyone who showed up.  I relived the best parts of my youth.  I got a little teary eyed once or twice with someone who meant the world to me.  We played catch up about our exploits and adventures over the years. We shared who we are today, and shook our heads in amazement at who we’d all managed to become.  We bar hopped until the wee hours of the morning, and staggered around that same, small town that time forgot that we came of age in together.  A smaller group of us stayed together after the drinking stopped and devoured an enormous amount of food at the diner in town that was still open.

20151010_191746The greatest quote of the night, at least from my perspective, was when as we were sitting around swapping stories and rehashing memories, an old friend was telling one particular tale when I finally had to stop him and say “Steve…man…I don’t think that was me that did that…”

He laughed and said “Man…there are so many stories, I guess my memories of you are somehow permanently merged with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…”

journeydestI can live with that.

At around 3:30am, I grabbed my phone out of my pocket, and noticed I had a text that I’d missed.  It was from my earlier Uber driver, and it said “Seems like things are going good for you. Ubers are scarce around here late. Text me when you need a ride, I don’t sleep much.”  And so I replied with “Hey, still up and offering that ride?”, and sure enough, he replied in less than 30 seconds and came and got me back to the hotel.  Yes, in hindsight, I could have also wound up in a Criminal Minds episode, but it worked out, so I’m just going to remember him as a really great guy and not a potential serial killer.

I closed out my trip the next day by catching a ride out to my mother’s grave and reflecting for a while before heading back down to the airport and back home.

So why I have I dragged you through this long, rambling tale of my wussed-out anxiety about my reunion?  Why, for the love of all that’s good and holy in the world, have I made you read this (even for me) long entry?

Because there are some lessons that I want you take away from this.  Whether it’s for you, or for someone else that you have a conversation with in the future, there are some really important takeaways that I have in my head that I think people can learn from:

  • When your reunion comes up, go.  Make the time.  It’ll be worth it.
  • Nobody cares who you were.  Well, some might…but it really sucks to be them. If high school was truly the best time of their life 25 years later, well, they haven’t really lived a life worth living, have they?
  • The things that seem so damned important and unbearable in high school don’t matter a damned bit in the real world.  I wish that every troubled kid…like I was back in those days…could flash forward and see their own 25 year reunion to know that no matter what the latest dramatic shows are telling them…it’s all survivable.  None of that nonsense matters the minute you cross the stage, shake hands, and walk out the door for the last time with that diploma.  The whole world opens up and changes from that moment forward, and if you have to, leave them all behind and go make a new life for yourself.
  • True friends are the ones who you can not see for literally years and Years and YEARS, and yet you can sit down and pick up right where you last left off without missing a beat.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn who those people are.  As quickly as possible.  Some people will matter forever, no matter how much time passes.
  • We’re all have fear.  Bob gives me crap constantly about being the stereotypical, arrogant IT guy.  I can hang at our events with 100 or 1000 people and run the room without a problem.  I can argue with vendors and negotiate deals worth millions without batting an eye.  I’ve built businesses.  I’m pretty successful with life overall…and yet the prospect of heading back turned me back into that same kid I used to be who wasn’t all that successful, who didn’t always know how to relate to people, and seemed to make an awful lot of bad decisions.  It’s okay to be afraid.  It’s not okay to let it dictate your choices and your life.  And remember that everyone else has fears, too.  We’re all only human.

You can stop reading now.  That’s really the end of this piece.  Go read something else

Outside of the context of this article…

…seriously, all of you just go read something else.  This is just for my own sake and peace of mind…

Joel, thank you for guilt tripping me to no end and making me show up.

Sandy, thank you for being you.

Steve, thank you for the laughs and the flashbacks.

Karen, great chatting with you…and yeah, it’s funny how things work out, huh?

Michelle, you should’ve showed up when I started nagging you to 🙂

Glenn…great band, man.  Seriously. I never in a million years would’ve thought that was in you back in the day.

Kelly, Jon, Laurie, April, Kim (and I guess Joel and Glenn too, but I don’t want you getting all weird because I mention you twice…)…you did a hell of a job pulling the reunion together.  Thank you for driving yourselves nuts on behalf of the rest of us.

Ryan and Jen, thanks for the ride and the laughs.  It’s awesome to see you two still together.

To the rest of the class that made it, it was great seeing you again.  Thank you for the laughs, flashbacks, and some new memories until the next time we’re all together.  To those that didn’t make it…see lesson learned number one.

Oh yeah…and Uber guy? Thanks for not being a serial killer.

Now I’m really done.  Get out of here.  Go home.  Beat it.

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