Middle School Reunion

Friday, November 20, 2015
posted by elizabeth @ 11:43 AM

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my Eighth Grade reunion – 30th year reunion, specifically. It was a small school, and even with a small number of kids in our grade, we had a great turn out. Planning the event was almost as much fun as actually attending. We brought out the old year books and laughed ourselves silly on funny memories. That vibe continued through the three day reunion festivities.
At the end of eighth grade, we all went in different directions for high school. And of course with no social media, most of us truly lost touch. As we geared up for the reunion, we connected on Facebook. It was fantastic. But seeing everyone in person was magical. Like stepping back in time. While a few decades have passed, everyone looked pretty much the same, just a tad older. Catching up on careers, children, and lives was extraordinarily fun. And, it was so easy and effortless to talk to these old class mates. Who knew?
Not everyone loves a good reunion. Case in point: my husband. He left high school and never looked back. But for the rest of us, seeing how people turned out 30 years later satisfies curiosity and fulfills a level of contentment.
Taking ourselves mentally to simpler times is extremely comforting, especially with the uncertainties and fears in the world right now. In all reality, eighth grade may have been a complex year for many of us, but usually those memories tend to fade some with time, leaving us with happier thoughts. I love the sights and sounds that take me back to younger days. Bring me a good episode of Family Ties, a song by The Cure, or a movie with Molly Ringwald, and I’m a happy girl.
Let’s face it, though, middle school is a huge time of maturity and growth in terms of figuring out an adolescent’s identity. Erik Erickson, preeminent psychotherapist, provided much research on the stages of life development. He explained that “adolescents experience mixed feelings about where they fit into society, and may experiment with several different roles, until they achieve a sense of identity.” Not that we needed an expert to tell us that! Those who knew me in 1986 knew what a cool New Wave identity I had at the time.
While the reunion was a place of laughter, middle school isn’t, and wasn’t, always that way. We were not alone. My three favorite movies from my adolescent-hood were Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty and Pink. All dealt with the teenage angst that everyone feels at some point. The writer of these classic coming of age movies, John Hughes, truly understood the plight of the young adult, be it high school or middle school. Middle school kids have a lot on their emotional plates. Combination locks, being late to class, fitting in, having someone to sit with at lunch, PE classes, tough academic classes, and now days, social media craziness, to put it mildly. Not everyone leaves middle school unscathed. But we do leave.
Am I glad I went to my reunion? Heck yes! As I mentioned previously, reconnecting with those old friends has been delightful. Better than I expected. Even though we are now grown with our own successes and lives, these people know positive and valuable things about me after spending the better part of our days connected by school for ten years. We do actually have much in common just by growing up together. We share memories that no one else knows. We share laughter, we share sadness. We share funny stories of first kisses and first heart breaks. What happens to us in middle school is only a microcosm of the actual world, but it sets us up for our successes in the real world. Time passes and we mature. We learn to shake off small things. We know that what made us different in middle or high school is what makes us unique today. I’ve been reminded of my 13 year old self much recently – my strengths and my weaknesses. And the good friends who have helped me be where I am today. It’s a good place to be.

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