Tell a personal story to someone from your past which reveals that you actually have no idea who you are talking to.
Check. Done. And I'm not telling you any more of this story. Suffice it to say the person in question was gracious, conceded that they did resemble the person to whom I thought I was speaking, and took it all in stride and with humor.
Reflect upon how poor a predictor of people lives you turned out to be.
Done. Yep, I missed it in both directions. People I thought were going to turn out to be people whom I would not enjoy later in life actually are quite delightful people, and people I thought were destined for rock-stardom are ordinary. In other cases, there are still people I enjoyed in high school whom I continue to enjoy today. I'm sure if I did some statistical testing on my predictions I'd find rolling dice to be just as accurate. I hope I remember this lesson.
I spotted a couple of people at the door who were in that high school rock-star category. They were chatting with each other, I knew they had remained friends, and stayed on the fringe of the crowd (which is not what they would have done in high school). They seemed a little anxious and unsure of themselves.
I felt compassion for them. I was moved to go over, say hello, and welcome them. That is a huge change for me. That never would have occurred to me in high school. I doubt I would have even seen them enough as real people to recognize that they were nervous. If I had, I certainly lacked the self-confidence and or self-esteem to do anything about it.
I was much more judgmental as a teen (and at the 20th reunion) than I am today. This judgmental mind that divides people up into categories, applies labels and acts on assumptions cut me off from knowledge that I have access to now. Seeing how people "turned out" in contrast to how I predicted they would be makes it really clear to me what the cost of this judgmental mind truly is. That's a valuable illustration and I intend to learn from it.
Confirm (surprisingly widely-held) theories concerning sex between particular teachers and students.
I went to a Catholic high school administered by professional clergy. The Catholic church carries all those stereotypes about illicit sex and abuse of authority for a reason. There's not much else to say, I only have direct knowledge of one incident, but shared observations of developments in the intervening 35 years confirms other hunches, many of which I didn't realize were so widely shared. It's probably overwhelming how widespread a problem this actually is.
Get socially shunned in a thoroughly adolescent manner.
Yep, it happened. It made me sad for that person, and not in a condescending manner. I've been there, I've done that, and I've got the extremely overpriced t-shirt, too. Life really is too short.
I hung on to my high school social situation for a long time. I no longer do. I thought that was the case before this event, but it was nice to have it confirmed. The people who showed up all had in common that they showed up. These people both had the opportunity to be here and the generosity of heart to take the risk and go to the trouble so we could all have this unique experience. I am deeply grateful for that.
There is something about all this that lives on in me, some part of who I am was deeply influenced by this experience I shared with this group of people at my high school in the mid-1970's. We were a human tribe of about 150 people who moved in unison for a number of very highly influential years. What happened, my success and losses, were very meaningful in my life for a long time, and not always in a good way.
But the fact that I was socially awkward, profoundly insecure and savagely critical in high school doesn't define my life any more, and it no longer defines my experience of these people whom I've know in varying measures for more than 35 years. I knew that before this evening, but it was satisfying to see that in action. With such long periods of time between meetings, some changes are easier to see this way.
I have become the person I want to be. I hope others did too.