Reflections On a 25-Year High School Reunion

10/22/2013 06:49 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

25 years later, does reality bite?

It was 1988, but it could have been any year. High school days were filled with emotion and excitement: The great late-night parties, the boys my friends and I thought we loved, the friendships we lived for and the music we played while we drove around on Friday nights. And at our 25-year high school reunion, those memories are crystal-clear.

Twenty-five years later, we still remember: the great late-night parties, the boys we thought we loved, the friendships we lived for and the music we played. The times we live in have changed, but actual things don't change much, and people don't either. I think that's a good thing. Reality doesn't bite as hard at the 25-year mark, despite what people may anticipate.

The most exciting thing I discovered after attending my 25-year high school reunion is basically this: Everyone is really nice, and everyone seems really happy -- no matter how many different choices we all made. That's not awfully exciting, but it is kind of nice.

We're no longer judging the big things. The 25th year high school reunion is just... different. It's not like the 10-year, where everyone was so set on showing how the choices they made set them well on their way -- to a perfect marriage, fast-track career, big house or crazy adventure.

It's not the 20-year, when everyone is curious to see who had those things from the 10-year succeed or fall. At the 25th year, we are 43, and we respect reality.

We know there's really no point in judging one another anymore -- not for the big things. We've all made choices and we're living with the consequences. Five kids or no kids; women with thriving careers or stay-at-home struggles; divorces and remarriages (sometimes more than one); failed relationships and unexpected heartbreaks, families with newborn twins or teens (sometimes both). It's just life.

We may not remember every face or every name, but we've given up judging the big things. As we hear the names of our classmates who have died or faced debilitating diseases this year, most of us are just grateful to not hear our names called in the welcome speech.

This is how we turned out. Football jerseys are traded in for blazers, and the girls who seemed like the smartest ones back then still seem so now. Some who always had someone are single now. Some who seemed like loners in high school are happily coupled up. Who's most admired now?

No, we're not perfect. We still gossip about the little things, like who looked great and who looked worse, who got heavier and who looks older. We're not resigned. Just realistic.

Some say timing is everything, and so is perception. What we didn't know at 16 is the grass is most definitely not always greener on the other side.

Those of us who couldn't wait to move far away from our high school town may now be a bit in awe of those who never left. And those that stayed may think it sounds awfully exciting to have left.My guess is there's envy on both sides now. And, perhaps, regret.

Twenty-five years ago,we drove around in circles, not sure where to go. Some days, I am not so sure that much has changed.

The day after the reunion, we are back on Facebook, peeking in on each other's lives and having some odd sense of satisfaction that we think we know what and how everyone is doing. The reunion was nothing more than a moment in time. It's only in these moments after that many of us realize we how much we miss those days.

It's an odd place to be, but the dose of reality seems right.