Why Going to a High School Reunion is More Cathartic than Therapy

3 min read

Unless you happen to be a trust fund kid with a very balanced home life and zero problems to worry about other than acne, the ages of 14-18 can be some of the most tumultuous and awkward years of your life. So why in the hell would anyone want to return to visit their past at a high school reunion?

I recently had the opportunity to go to my 20th high school reunion, and it was a big learning experience. One day when I was 16, there was an insouciant, good-looking, clueless guy (think Zoolander) in my theater class who wrote me a nasty note, telling me I was utterly hopeless. I have no idea what possessed him to do it; the guy couldn’t have known that just the evening prior, I had dealt with a lot of personal family drama no teenager should ever have to go through. But it was a very scarring emotional experience for me that became the catalyst for constantly proving myself as a young adult against doubts of inadequacy, which were foolish and misplaced

I will never forget the way his words made me feel, but when I mustered up the courage to attend the 20th reunion, something pivotal happened. The same guy, now nearing 40, came up to where I was sitting with my husband, and without going over the top with an effusive apology, he showed me he’d changed. He was noticeably humble, complimentary about me being an author, and emotionally aware. It was plain to see he’d changed, and he appeared contrite. Does it excuse what he did twenty years ago? Not really, but the closure I got from that single pleasant conversation was more healing than seven sessions of counseling could ever be.

A gay friend of mine who’d been through a lot of teasing and bullying in high school also went, and I think it was a healing experience for him, as well. High school reunions give us the chance to celebrate who we were, to step back and realize what we’ve accomplished and how wonderful certain friendships were, give us gumption, and release us from emotional bondage.

Another thing it allows us to do is let go of the past. If you did something embarrassing in high school like swoon over that one guy or girl you couldn’t stop thinking about to the point of ridiculousness, reunions give you an opportunity to hold your head high, show them what they missed out on, and walk away with your dignity.

If you’re debating whether or not to attend your high school reunion, to quote the old adage, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand tall and proud, and cleanse yourself of emotional junk in the basement.

Make sure you write a list of all the positive things you’ve done since your high school years, and treat yourself to a massage, mani-pedi, facial, or spa day before attending. You deserve it!