A friend tagged me in a post on Facebook and my face stared in disbelief as I read her comments.
“Hi everyone! It’s that time! That’s right: it’s been 25 years since we graduated from high school and we are planning a reunion this summer!”
That can’t possibly be correct.
Has it really been a quarter of a century since I sat next to my classmates on a June day, listening to the valedictorian tell us to chase our dreams with gusto? Had it really been that long since I sat with my mortar board affixed upon my overly Aqua Netted, jacked to Jesus hair?
Immediately after I recovered from the shock of realizing that I could no longer count the years I’d been out of school on my fingers and toes, I dug my senior yearbook out of the recesses of my attic. I paged through memories I’d long forgotten: Friday nights spent with the color guard of the band, long lazy Saturday afternoons with my best friend at the mall, and sweaters that would fit a man twice my size (seriously, what were we thinking?)
When I came to my senior portrait, I looked at the girl with the overblown coif and teal mascara and wished she knew what I knew now. I also wished she hadn’t chosen to have acrylic nails cemented onto her fingers.
As I reminisced, I thought of all of the things I’ve learned along the way that I really wish I’d known ahead of time. Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without surviving the grunge fashion phase but, still. There are a few things that would have made the road to my 40 something self a tad easier.
To my high school self, I’d say:
1. Travel now, while your standards are low. Youth hostels are a lot less glamorous at 40.
2. Pack up your tiny, barely running car and drive it until it craps out. See as much of the country you can and eat peanut butter and jelly along the way.
3. Michael Jackson dies. And so does Prince. And Tom Petty. So enjoy them while you can.
4. Your pubic hair will turn grey and you will scare the woman in the next bathroom stall when you realize this abomination.
5. They will invent products that will make your curls less unruly and the flat-iron will change your life. Hang on, help is coming.
6. Enjoy the freedom of being lost on a country road with your best friend as you sing Bon Jovi lyrics at the top of your lungs. Technology will make it nearly impossible to be as in the moment as you are right now.
7. You will not recognize your eyebrows after you turn 40. Seriously, be prepared.
8. The grunge phase doesn’t last long. I promise.
9. When your favorite shows end, don’t panic. Turns out, networks “reboot” shows thirty years later and it’s like they’ve never left.
10. You will be friends with everyone from your high school class, even the cool kids. And, 20 years later, you’ll drink wine with that cool girl who ignored you and you’ll both wonder why you weren’t friends in high school.
11. You will never get over the loss of your first love. But, that heartache will lead you the one who will love you forever.
12. One day, you will realize you can’t remember the name of the kid who annoyed you in biology class. And you’ll text your best friend to ask if she remembers and she’ll have forgotten, too.
13. High school is great. College is better. Living single after college is the best. Enjoy that time.
14. The health department has probably condemned your first apartment by now. But those years spent in that tiny box will be among the happiest of your life. Except for the roaches.
15. No one uses a VCR anymore and this came as a shock to me. Also, don’t say “tape a show” to your kids because they will laugh at you.
16. Cherish the friends you make in high school and do what you can to keep in touch. On the days when motherhood makes your life barely recognizable, they will help you find the girl who wore a teal sequined dress to prom. And they won’t laugh much when they remind you just how hideous that dress really was.
17. Be very grateful social media doesn’t exist. Your wild nights with your college friends won’t come back to haunt you at a job interview.
18. Two words: Chin hair. Yes, I know. It’s devastating. I don’t know what to say, either.
19. High school football games don’t change. When you attend one with your now teenaged son, you’ll swear you can hear your friends giggling next to you and if you close your eyes, you can see your home team playing on the gridiron.
20. Life is short. And sweet. And it really does go by too fast. As cliché as it sounds, one day, you’ll wake up and realize that 25 years has passed. And you’ll find yourself writing a list like this.
As I responded “Yes” to attending my 25th high school reunion this summer, I remembered the teachers, the friends and the memories fondly. I smiled at the antics on Fall afternoons, driving cars and chasing boys. I reminisced about proms, chemistry classes from hell and school musicals that rivaled Broadway productions.
Mostly, though, I remembered myself wearing teal sequins and white taffeta hoping that the best was yet to come….
Christine Burke is the owner of the popular parenting blog, keeperofthefruitloops.com. In her spare time, she runs marathons, collects thrift shop finds and eats ice cream like it’s her job. Her work has been featured on the Today Show, the Today Parenting Team, Scary Mommy and other parenting websites. In her current role as Assistant Editor of Grown and Flown, she writes about the realities of soon sending her not so little anymore kids off to college and prays she doesn’t use too many comma splices in the process.