Something terrible happened a few days ago. I received an invitation to my 10-year high school reunion.
To make things worse, thanks to our wholly digital existence these days, it arrived via a Facebook event invite, where I could see in plain, virtual view, every other invitee — their profile photos neatly juxtaposed next to the names that had slowly ventured into the dim corners of my brain over the years.
There was no letter I could fold back into its envelope and toss on my desk, no sense of wonder about who would be there or who couldn't (or didn't want to) attend, and what they had done with their lives since we all had graced those unforgiving halls and sat impatiently in classrooms together. Instead there were invitation declines and acceptances all laid out on one page, excited comments and pleas to extend the night to those who might have foregone Facebook for real life.
With a click of a button, it was possible to deduce who was doing what, living where and with whom. And as strange as it sounds, given that the entire affair was conducted online, it made the prospect of a high school reunion that much more terrifyingly real. There was no imagining what it would be like. I knew what it would be like from the moment a red notification popped up on my news feed to alert me of my invitation.
Though it sounds like my high school years might have been torturous, they were actually some of the best times of my life. In fact, I still reminisce about them fondly from time to time. I had a great group of friends, extracurricular activities that I was extremely passionate about and teachers whom I admire to this day.
But my reaction to a reunion invitation was pretty typical and it reeked of dread — sheer dread. Dread at the fact that the event truly solidified that 10 whole years had passed since all I really had to be responsible for was homework. There was no beating around the bush — I was now old. Or at least older. Dread that the past was about to intersect with the present and wreak awkward havoc between us all, and dread that I wasn't mentally ready for any of it.
Did I really want to explain what I had been up to for the last decade? Or be subjected to a room filled to the brim with the distinct aroma of exaggeration? All signs pointed to 'no.'
What is it about high school that drudges up such intense feelings? Perhaps it's because it coincided with a time when the roots of our lives began to take shape. For some that meant becoming lovely, generous people. For others, things might have taken an unfortunate turn in the opposite direction.
When you're in it, high school feels like the be-all, end-all of existence, the final frontier to success, relationships and confidence. But it's not true. People change. Talents are revealed. That quirky personality you thought was such a detriment and deterrent in those four years becomes the thing that makes you you, and if you get lucky, the thing that ends up bringing you success and happiness.
High school was good to me. It taught me what I wanted out of life. It solidified friendships I'm so grateful are still as strong as ever today. But I moved on. I learned my lessons. And I don't know if it's worth it to take a small look back, even though nostalgia has always appealed to me.
I know I would be laughing to the point of tears once we all remembered the two-week long hostage situation that a certain nameless teacher's prized bell was involved in, including anonymous calls where we heard it ringing for help, but I'm still not entirely convinced.
As I self-medicate with several re-viewings of “Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion” (don't we all wish we invented Post-Its?), I'd love to hear arguments for and against that timeless question: Is a high school reunion worth going to?
LIANA AGHAJANIAN is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, Paste magazine, New America Media, Eurasianet and The Atlantic. She may be reached at email@example.com.