It’s been 25 years, a whopping quarter of a century, since the biggest stresses of my day were whether or not my physics lab partner studied for the final more than I did, and if I had enough Aqua Net in my locker to see me through after dance team practice. And this summer, I will head to my 25-year high school reunion and reconnect with a group of peeps from the ’80s, who I’m pretty sure John Hughes used as the inspiration for The Breakfast Club. The years 1986–1990 at my large, middle-class, suburban high school could have easily been the prototype for Glenbrook North High School in Shermer, Ill., Saturday detention and all.
There were cliques, stereotypes and, among my class of 1990, we actually did have the jock, the brain, the beauty, the recluse and the rebel. There was the cool kids lunch table, the sports-car-driving quarterback, the convertible-driving cheerleader, and there were the band geeks (who incidentally had the last laugh—turns out band geeks end up in your college’s marching band, and you actually can’t wait to party with them at Saturday football games). There were geniuses, artists, athletes, dreamers and doers. And now, almost three decades later, as we get ready to convene at a beach resort and lounge around a pool deck reminiscing about sneaking out of bedroom windows, funneling beers and lip-syncing to Taylor Dayne, all those personality facades and teen identity crises we portrayed years ago will have all but disappeared.
Something life-changing will have happened to all of us, and masks will have been stripped down, humanity will have snuck in, and marriage, kids and life will have sucker-punched all of us. This is called the magic and mystery of life becoming the great equalizer. Back then, at age 17, a quasi-teen pecking order existed. Now in our early 40s? Well, life doesn’t discriminate. It has tossed, flipped and thrown us all up in the air, and we’ve all now landed on equal footing. And that, my Def Leppard-singing friends, is, like, totally tubular.
Twenty-five years of adult-ing has given the class of 1990 its inevitable due. We’ve been blindsided. We’ve lost things. We’ve found things. Gained things. Ran away from things. We’ve begged for life do-overs. We’ve begged for it to stay the same. We may have even begged for it to end. And yet we’ll all be back together again soon, to share among old friends what manner of plate life has served us. All the joy and the sorrows, the highs and the lows, and of course, all the things we’ve lost, and all the things we’ve found.
Since the ripe old age of 17, it can be assumed that collectively, we’ll have lost jobs, friends, grandparents, parents and pets. We’ve lost pounds, inhibitions, fear and condemnation. We’ve lost hair, pretenses, biases and disillusionments. We’ve been forgotten, mistreated, offended and rejected. We’ve suffered near-paralyzing disappointments and been bone-numbingly exhausted by overwhelming familial responsibility. We’ve fought cancer, demons, despair and lost some of our fights. It’s very likely a majority of us at one time or another have lost all our courage, hope, joy, sanity and mojo. And most assuredly, we’ve all even lost our minds at some point.
But more than what we have lost since 1990 is the inventory of what we have gained.
We’ve gained wisdom, insight, discernment and grace. We’ve gained pounds, kids, step-kids and in-laws. We’ve found new careers, new hometowns and new friends we never knew we needed. We’ve gained patience, peace, gratitude and confidence. We’ve been rejuvenated, empowered, healed and made whole again. We’ve met the hardest of days with poise, gumption and strength that we never knew we possessed. We’ve fought cancer, demons, despair and actually won. We’ve found courage, hope, joy, sanity, and somewhere along our journey, the minds we lost came back again. And now? Well, you better watch out world, because our 40s are all about getting our mojo back.
We walked out of our graduation ceremony 25 years ago all very different people—the recluse, the brain, the beauty, the rebel, the jock. Arms intertwined, adolescent memories having been made, our whole life ahead of us, we all headed in the same direction—the path of life.
We will reunite again, 25 years later, as the homemaker, the academic, the CEO, the world traveler and the therapist. We’re all very different people now, yet all inherently the same. Behind the occupations we are the mom, the dad, the wife, the husband, the life partner. We are the elder caregiver, a best friend’s backbone, the family’s cheerleader, our kid’s quarterback. Arms intertwined, memories yet to be made, the rest of our lives ahead of us, we will leave together and head back on the path of life, this time all in very different directions.
And until we meet again at our 50th, hey, don’t you forget about me.