A Place of Love and Healing: My 30th High School Reunion

As the plane was descending over New Mexico to land in the El Paso, Texas airport, I looked out at the desert landscape spotted with creosote bushes nestled under the Organ mountains against the ice blue sky.

Photo Credit: A certain Englishman

The next song on my Spotify playlist began to play

Made friends and lost them through the years
And I've not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I've grown
But I can't wait to go home
Castle on a Hill by Ed Sheeran

 I too was coming home.  It had been years since I had seen the colorful sunsets that look like something only Bob Ross could create

Photo credit: Suzie Medina Flores

or tasted the spicy sweet green chile that only Hatch, New Mexico can grow next to the Rio Grande.

Chachi's tostada compuestas Photo credit: Heather Ruth Pack

It was all because of a single comment made over a year ago.

Posted on the Las Cruces High School Class of 1987 Facebook page

I don't know if Karen regrets that post or not, but she ended up organizing our 30th high school reunion which was last weekend.  Fortunately many people stepped forward to help, but nothing is as time consuming as being chief worrier.

The reunion date was set on the weekend of the Las Cruces High vs. Mayfield High rival football game.

This is the #2 rival game in the nation  Photo Credit: Joy Clickener

Registration began thanks to Carol Brouwer and her husband who donated their web development talents to create a custom website just for our class.

It was going to be a 3-day weekend including a tailgate party, the football game, an after party at a sports bar, a tour of the newly remodeled Las Cruces High School, golfing or happy hour at a winery, dinner at The Dog House in historic Mesilla, and a Sunday brunch at the famous La Posta.

Whew!  A fun-filled reunion for sure.  

Karen and Carol worked extremely hard to keep the costs low.

Photo credit: Karen Langley

Others came forward and made donations so that as many who wanted to attend could.  It looked like we were on our way to great 30th high school reunion.  

And then something magical happened that transformed the reunion from a bunch of middle-aged adults getting together to see how much we have all changed into something completely different.  

A brave, humble member of the class of '87 came forward and said she didn't want to go.  

"Well I have no fond memories of high school.  I wish I could say I was happy but instead I was bullied." 
Her bravery opened the door for others to come forward and reveal their pains and stories of being bullied in high school as well.  People began to ask for forgiveness, others expressed love and sympathy for those who had struggled.

Because you know what?  High school is hard.  It's hard for everyone.  Transitioning into adulthood isn't easy.  We make mistakes, we hurt others, we get hurt, it's just messy.  Why would anyone want to relive that 30 years later?

It was in this moment our class changed.  We no longer were those hormonally imbalanced, pimple-faced, awkward teenagers.  We are now older and wiser, and we had the wrinkles to prove it.  This reunion was no longer about just getting together for some drinking, laughing, and a good time, we were now coming home to heal.
Photo credit: Celia Tahuahua
Photo credit: Suzie Medina Flores

Photo credit: Suzie Medina Flores
Photo credit: Joseph Ortiz

Our reunion became an opportunity to make new friendships moving forward.  

Photo credit: Suzie Medina Flores
Photo credit: Karin M Rice 

Yes, we are bound together because of our past, but our past does not have to define who we are today.
Photo credit: a certain Englishman

If you have a high school reunion coming up and are trying to decide whether to go, I hope you choose to attend.  May I offer some advice after attending mine?  

#1 - Bring your spouse or partner.  That person will be a great support to you.  It gives him or her a chance to see your roots and meet the people who helped you become who you are.  It also creates a great excuse in case you have forgotten someone's name.  Just have your partner introduce himself or herself to someone and listen for when they introduce themselves back.  A certain Englishman had a fantastic time at my reunion.  He made some great friends and was sad when we left.  He can't wait for our next reunion.

#2 - Don't try to dramatically change your body before the reunion.  Everyone looks older.  It's called time.  I honestly can't remember who I saw at the 30 year who was bigger than they were in high school (probably all of us).  All I could see was the light in their eyes and the smile on their face.  Don't let something like the shape of your body keep you from reconnecting.  

#3 - Take the time to drive down familiar streets and places.  I was shocked how memories came flooding back just because I was an a familiar road.  A certain Englishman and I were on a street headed to our hotel and out of nowhere I blurted, "The next street is Fairway."  I hadn't thought of that street in years.  Each corner brought new memories and stories to my mind.  

#4 - Don't try to make people guess who you are.  My friends and I thought it would be fun to have a classmate try to guess our names.  Turns out he had suffered memory loss and didn't know who we were.  I felt horrible.  I later apologized and we are still friends, but I never should have put anyone in that kind of awkward position.  

#5 - Don't talk politics.  Thankfully I didn't notice any of that at the reunion. 
Image result for jefferson quote friends politics

#6 - Let yourself be vulnerable.  If our brave classmate hadn't come forward with her true feelings, we would not have had the reunion that we did.  It's okay to be nervous or anxious, others most likely are feeling that way too.

#7 - Don't apologize or be embarrassed that you still live where you went to high school.  You are the keeper of the memories and the stories.  You are our connection to our past.  You can answer the question "What ever happened to...."  and you are also able to bring homemade salsa to the tailgate party.  Reunions can't happen without you.

and my last tip is for those still in high school:

#8 - Make sure you LOVE your senior year picture in the yearbook.  You will be wearing that picture on your chest for years to come.

Photo credit: A certain Englishman