The Fearful Tale Of My High School Reunion: "So...what are you up to these days?"
Ughhh, I was so damn nervous. I’d spent the entire day trying to forget that tonight was the night. The night I'd have to face them. After all of these years.
I couldn’t eat. My stomach was in knots. I was dying to get a drink in my system. I curled my hair, and of course, it didn't turn out right. The curls almost immediately fell out, just like my heart was about to fall out of my stomach. I hurriedly applied makeup and made my way to my friend's house.
"So, are you excited for our 10-year reunion?" I asked her.
"I'm kinda nervous - not gonna lie." She said.
"ME TOO!" I announced, feeling triumphant that someone else was just as scared as I was.
My high-school reunion. This was it. I kicked myself all day, thinking, "Why in the WORLD did I buy a ticket to this thing? I literally spent $80 just to feel nauseous!"
I did. I felt nauseous. I was terrified. Pretty soon, I would face all of those people again - including the jerks and the assholes. I would have to face the people who’ve been judging me on Facebook for the past ten years.
And who else would I run into? Not just the assholes, but my former and super-successful classmates - the ones living in expensive apartments in New York City, the ones getting married, the ones who are much skinnier now, the ones who have boyfriends and kids and big-shot jobs. The ones buying houses, even!
And where am I? I’m broke. Single. Overweight. LIVING AT HOME. I'm embarrassed.
I'm ashamed of my life.
I'm scared to tell people about it - my life that I’m so ashamed of. I'm scared of the dun-dun-dunnnnn question: "So...what are you up to these days?" You know, the question that is really asking, "What have you made of yourself? Are you really worth it? Are you really worth anything?"
I remember manically practicing and memorizing scripts with my sister in those last few hours before the big event. "Okay, so if someone asks you where you're living, say quickly, 'I'm in New Jersey for a little bit!' Be vague; be very vague. Immediately jump to another topic.
Deep down, I knew the real answer to this doomsday question - the real answer to what I’ve been up to.
I feel like my life has been on pause for the last few years, while I've been figuring shit out. I've made some steps forward, and tons of steps backwards. My progress is like fucking molasses. And then sometimes it's fast. My life doesn’t look like a straight line. It looks like loop-de-loops, mountains, hills, zig zags, swirlies, curlie-cues. And it’s frustrating to watch my classmates' lives unfold on social media - chugging full steam ahead.
So, I'm ashamed of my life. And a lot of the time, I truly believe that I'm not enough.
But can my classmates handle this raw, brutal truth - that I don’t feel good enough? Can I handle this truth?
They definitely can't, and I can sometimes.
Not feeling like I’m “enough” is something that I’ve been working on for a while. I don’t know how this feeling got here, in my body, deep down in my bones and in my heart. But it’s here, and it sucks. It’s the quiet whisper that sneers at me when I make a mistake, when I transfer the call to the wrong person at my job. It’s the loop of anxious thoughts that show up uninvited - “Oh my God! How did my life take me here? I was supposed to be living in Mexico by now! I was supposed to be living on my own for years by now!” It’s the strive for perfection - the need to do everything just right. The need to spend 20 minutes crafting a text message to my friend. It’s the need to be the person everyone can depend on, the one who everyone can’t live without. This feeling shows up as deeply-rooted doubts, the ones that wash over me when it’s time to share details about my life, to be vulnerable, to be brave. And it shows up as the immense relief I feel when I have an escape route - when I can stay safely in my comfort zone.
This reunion seemed perfectly designed for magnifying this deep insecurity of mine. Just one little question, “So...what have you been up to these days?” would likely send me into a tailspin. You're not good enough...you're not good enough...you're not good enough...
But there I was, not feeling good enough, in an uber ride, on my way to my 10-year, high-school reunion.
So why did I decide to go - knowing that, most likely, I’d be asked about my life?
I deserved to be there. I graduated from that high school, didn’t I? And it was about time that I faced my fears head on. It was about time that I closed that chapter in my life. And once-in-a-lifetime events - I go to those. It’s reallllllly hard, almost impossible, for me to pass them up, which might explain why the universe packaged up this event in beautiful, colorful, you-can’t-miss-this, wrapping paper. I was meant to get something out of that fear-inducing experience.
Also, according to Benjamin Hardy, in order to unveil the magnificent person you are, you need to put yourself in challenging situations - situations that test you, that stretch your limits, that make you uncomfortable. Because in those moments, you grow.
I have come to believe that if you don’t put yourself in situations that encourage self-growth, the universe will find ways to put those experiences in your path anyway, to keep you learning and expanding.
“Well, here’s to growth,” I thought, as I walked through the doors of my 10-year high school reunion.
I was surprised.
There was a smaller group of people than I had imagined - mostly congregated by the bar. I was greeted with hugs and hellos and smiles. All around. I even found myself initiating conversations with people I had genuinely missed. Nineties music enveloped me as I grabbed my go-to drink, rum and coke.
I still remember my first conversation of the night - it was with my old buddy from English class. We laughed and reminisced, making fun of the project we had worked on together, more than a decade ago.
Yes, people still asked me what I’ve been up to “these days.” But again, I was surprised. No one really seemed to care about my answer. They didn’t care at all.
In fact, their eyes seemed to glaze over when I launched into my well-rehearsed rundown.
People did this, not because they weren’t interested, not because they were being rude, but because they were just as anxious to give their own rundowns. They wanted to get their stories out of the way. One guy told me that he was working at a college in Boston, but jumped in quickly to assure me that, although he’s living in an apartment now, he’s saving to buy his own place. “Oh my God,” I thought to myself. “He’s self-conscious about not having bought a house. He’s actually trying to explain to me why he hasn’t! Crazy!” Another girl told me that she was jealous of my trip to Chile; she was actually jealous of me.
I began to relax, and after a couple drinks, I realized that I was actually having fun. I was dancing with my friends to ‘Nsync and the Spice Girls. Ahhh, I was happily reliving the good ol’ days!
I even went to the after-party! I took tons of pictures and felt truly happy at the end of the night.
So, yeah. I’m glad I went. Even though I had been scared to death of being asked about my life.
After my high-school reunion, I’ve come to realize, more solidly, that we are all on our own paths.
And no one really cares what I’m doing. And I’m grateful for it. My friends and kinda-friends are busy themselves, putting themselves out there, living their own truths. And I now feel free to do the same, knowing that I’m not being judged.
And maybe, just maybe, I won’t completely dread the next time I’m asked, “So...what are you up to these days?”
Jessica and her twin sister, Shannon, have made it to the other side of their quarter-life crises through inner reflection and intentional travel. Now, they are in the business of helping other women experience incredible momentum in their lives, too. Take the first steps out of your rut with the best advice they've ever received, compiled in the guide, "Feeling Like Me Again: The Advice That Woke Me Up." You can get it here at their website, Your Velveteen Life.