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Dateline Seattle: School reunion as a learning experience

I have attended quite a few reunions in my life: family reunion, town reunion, school reunion, reunion of former co-workers, reunion of childhood friends, and reunion of former activists. All reunions are fun. They provide a unique opportunity to renew old ties. They also provide a venue to relive the past. But what I have discovered so far is there is nothing like a high school reunion. High school reunion means so much more than other reunions, it seems. High school is where we begin to shape the self we want to become. It’s that time of our life when we experiment almost anything – smoking, drinking, going home late at night, and cautiously disobeying our parents, to mention a few. – and, at the same time, cultivate friendship with as many individuals as possible. Last week our Ateneo de Naga University high school batch had a reunion in Las Vegas. The reunion was a spin-off of the reunion we had in the Philippines last year. It was intended for our batchmates in the US and Canada who missed last year’s reunion. The turnout was not that striking. From the original fifteen batchmates from the U.S. and Canada who initially signified their intention to attend, only eight were able to make it. One had to beg off due to eye surgery. Another could no longer take a plane by himself. One was recently diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Another had to attend a wedding. Three could not leave work. It tells me that we all have different priorities in life. But what concerns me the most are my batchmates who are going through some changes, especially physical change. They face a different kind of test that may be worse than the typical angst we experienced as adolescents. The few who made it to Las Vegas were just happy to see each other again. Added one batchmate, “Let’s just have fun.” “No political discussion,” suggested another batchmate. Fine with me; no problem, even if I have the proclivity to talk about politics. What was important was to take a fresh look at how we had been and how advancing in years has impacted our lives and our respective families. We partied. We drank. We ate. We gossiped. We cracked jokes. We shared stories. I thought that sharing one’s life-story could be daunting to make one drink wine a little more, but that was not what my batchmates felt. In fact, everyone was excited to talk about their experiences, including their failures. For two nostalgic days, we were able to reminisce and revisit the best and the worst of high school, including our personal indiscretions, without fear of being reported to the prefect of discipline. Going through this exercise was cathartic for many of us. It was a learning experience. Everything was worth the effort. For some adults, high school reunion is a waste of time and money. They cringe at the prospect of seeing their peers they did not like. Some may have been traumatized by a bully or a super-strict teacher. Yes, high school may be a troubling time for some. But one thing I learned from my batchmates last week was that life after high school is not predicated on the things that happened during those years, but on how we build our character to meet the challenges we encounter in life.

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