REUNION ANGST – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Every ten years I face a major High School Reunion. 20 years, 30, 40, and now I’m up to 50 years in June of 2017. Whenever reunion time approaches, I go through a period of self-doubt and indecision. Do I really want to go? What can I say about my life? To be honest, I don’t feel I’ve “accomplished” much which leaves me feeling insecure talking to my High School classmates about our respective life trajectories.

I was one of the top students in my Fieldston High School Class of ’67. If we had done the “most likely to” labels in our senior yearbook, I’d probably have been one of the most likely to “succeed”.

Senior High School Yearbook Photo / 1967

However, I chose a path that was unusual for my generation of Baby Boomers. I practiced law for a mere three years before I gave up my legal career and opted to be a full-time, stay-at-home Mother and homemaker. After the kids left home, I taught Yoga and tried to start a small business from home. I never had another full-time job. I don’t regret the choices I made – except when High School reunions roll around.

Everyone else has probably had one or even two long-term careers to talk about, in addition to having families. Many may also have had individual achievements to brag about along the way. I don’t have much to talk about at all, at least concerning career and work.

Me and my two kids in 1985

I decided, for my own sanity, the best way to measure my life is in terms of experiences I’ve had – and survived. When you count negative, challenging, out of the norm experiences, the picture changes and suddenly, I’ve had a full life.

I spent much of my life dealing with some form of mental illness. My own anxiety and depression. My first husband’s bi-polar disorder, complete with long-lasting and severe manic episodes. My son’s depression, bi-polar disorder, and learning disabilities — all of which made getting him through school an ordeal for the whole family.

Then there are medical issues. My grandfather was hit by a truck and spent six-weeks, brain-dead in the hospital before he died. I nursed my grandmother, father, and mother through cancer. My son’s kidneys failed at the age of 24. Five years ago, I donated a kidney to keep him alive. He still struggles with kidney symptoms and medication side effects every day and will for the rest of his life.

I survived a lot of shit and I’ve come out in a good place. I’m in a wonderful second marriage, I have great friends and close relationships with my children. I have interesting hobbies. If you were to give out points for surviving with humor, decency and an upbeat attitude, then I deserve an award. That in itself is a major accomplishment.

I think it will be enough to get me through my High School reunion with my head held high.

14 thoughts on “REUNION ANGST – BY ELLIN CURLEY

    • Life Well Lived is a compliment I can accept graciously. I realize as you get older that actual accomplishments in your distant past mean less than who you have become as a person. What I have to offer others is in some ways richer than if I had lived a life sitting at a desk or doing a traditional job.

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  1. I have avoided all the reunions. I wasn’t close to any of those people anyhow. The few I knew, i chat with on Facebook and most of them didn’t go. I think that’s the price of going to a school with a graduation class of more than 800 kids … and that was just the Senior class. I had maybe half a dozen friends … three of whom could be considered “close.”

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    • My graduating high school class was lwess than 120 kids. So we really all knew each other after six and in many cases twelve years of school together. But my close friends all moved out of the area and most don’t come back for reunions. So for me, it would not be reconnecting with long lost old friends. It would be more like meeting up with relative strangers who have shared something in their past. Interesting but not earth shattering.

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  2. I only went to a high school reunion once. I had only spent a couple of years at the school and needless to say hardly anyone remembered me. I would not bother to go to another.
    I don’t feel we have to measure ourselves by what our peers have done. You may not have had a stellar professional career but you have lived a life you can be proud of just the same.

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    • Maybe because I lived and went to school in New York City, careers and ‘making something’ of yourself were important goals in high school. Even for girls in the 60’s. I don’t feel I have to compete with my peers in any way, but you have to talk to people and everyone will ask about what you’ve been doing for the past 50 years! So the process of catching up in itself becomes problematic for someone who was a stay at home Mom for 25 years and still doesn’t have a career outside the home. I really wouldn’t have the opportunity to explain the life changing experiences I had that made me a better person. So in the end, I’m glad I didn’t go. Although I would have if I didn’t have to be out of town.

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    • Writing this blog really helped me feel good about myself again. I used to tell my ex husband, who was a workaholic, that after he left, no one would remember him at the office. He would just be replaced by someone else. At home is where your immortality is. You will always be important to your family and friends.

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  3. Ellin, if I may — some objective observations from an old friend.

    High school reunions are usually “hinky” (Think Abby on “NCIS”). People are frequently trying to impress former classmates with their “success” and or physical appearance.

    Time has been kind to you. The pretty high school graduate is now a very lovely wife and mother. You’ve had professional success and are pursuing new avenues with your writing.

    You’ve admirably navigated the waters of domestic life and now are a very sensitive and caring person who can get introverted people like me to share.

    I think you’ll do very well at your reunion. Frankly, I believe some may be a little envious of you.

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    • Garry – thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement. It’s because of friends like you that I do feel good about myself and my life. If I have a few people like you in my life, then I must have done something very right! I ended up not going to the reunion because that was the weekend we had to help our friend Deb pick up her boat in Mass. (See former blog titled “Nautical Road Trip”.) So I chose current friendship over my high school reunion. I did write a short piece and send photos for a booklet that is being printed and sent out to all my classmates. So I did get my story out there. That may be the best way to catch up anyway – in print.

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  4. I have never attended one of my high school reunions. I just don’t see the reason to reconnect with people every ten years when I don’t care enough to see them on my own volition any other time in my life. I have been mildly successful in life but have no desire to brag to these people. I didn’t achieve anything worth bragging about. Then again, I was pretty much of a loner in high school and still am.

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