The road to high school graduation is long and winding; it's a journey almost everyone is happy to see come to an end. Especially if you go to college, it's easy to put high school behind you and march forward into the future. But then one day, long after the smell of the cafeteria is but a distant memory, you'll find yourself in front of your computer doing god knows what on the internet when you get a notification on Facebook—you've been invited to your five-year high school reunion.
Before you make your official decision (and it usually is "official," because you generally have to purchase a ticket for this kind of thing), go through your FB contacts and reach out to all the friends you still talk to from that time. Debate the pros and cons of attending; this will take weeks, probably. But once you and everyone you insist attend with you is finally in agreement about going, start making a grand plan for the whole evening. This essentially means focus on the only parts that really count, the pre-game and the after-party.
The thing is, even if a part of you might dread the whole idea of a high school reunion, deep down you're probably also, at least a little, excited about it. Even though we live in a digital age where we can keep tabs on everyone that has ever been in our lives for even one second, let alone four years, it doesn't compare to seeing what these people are actually like IRL. Plus, if you didn't peak during high school, you're going to have a better time than you'd think.
Every high school reunion is different depending on the demeanor of the crowd, but there are a few ways to guarantee that you'll have a solid experience. Check out the five major keys to survival in the gallery, below.
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1. Roll with a pack Even if your friend group has dwindled in size, this is not the type of function you want to attend alone. I highly recommend having at least one companion by your side whether that's your high school BFF or your current significant other.
There is bound to be a lot of awkwardness throughout the evening, so having someone else stick with you during all the catch-up conversations is a great buffer. It's also easier to make your rounds between groups and provides a great segue when you forget someone's name.
Side note: I highly recommend wearing a name tag. You think you'd remember everyone, but when your graduating class has more than 500 people in it, the names start to fade.
2. Have a drink in hand A beverage will really take the edge off the tension you're bound to feel in every pore of your body once you're actually there. Plus, you're going to be busy talking to so many people, you'll definitely need to refresh and rehydrate every now and then. Bonus: Should you find yourself empty-handed, you can use that as an excuse to break away from someone.
That said, don't overdo it. If you think you did embarrassing things when you were in high school, imagine how embarrassed you will feel when you find out that you were the most inebriated person at the reunion. There's nothing cute about barely being able to walk because you had too much to drink. Oh, and try not to fall while you're at it. (People don't forget.) Save it for the less formal after-party, where you can get wasted to your heart's content should you desire.
3. Carry the conversation No matter how "successful" you have become since your high school days, it's important to make an effort to be humble. Even if you despise every single person in the room, have the courtesy to hold a decent conversation. At the very least, ask the same amount of questions that you receive.
Expect to endure the whole "what have you been up to" pitch, in which you'll have to break down where you went to college, what you majored in, what job you currently hold, and where you live. If you're like me, you can go over this without having to be asked consecutive questions, but this might rub some people the wrong way if they feel obligated to go through the whole routine. (Sorry not sorry, time is sacred!) But, yes, this part of the night can just feel like people are reciting their LinkedIn profiles. Oh, well.
On the other hand, don't forget to ask the other person how they've been doing. Even if you don't actually care, it's the polite thing to do. Nobody wants to be called out for bad manners. A friend of mine said it best: "When you haven't seen someone for five years, you ask them how they're doing." It's just that basic.
4. Always look the part Chances are that there won't be a dress code for this event. Most five- and even 10-year reunions are, after all, held at local bars. Dressing down might not be your thing, but it's important to dress comfortably. Maybe don't show up wearing class apparel. Keep it casual.
It's a given that everyone experiences a transformation after high school, but some of those changes are going to be more visible than others, so it's worth making an extra effort on your appearance. You might not see these people for another five years or more, so you want to leave a lasting impression on them. (Besides, who doesn't love being told how great they look all night long?!)
However you used to look doesn't matter—body positivity is key!
5. Cut yourself (and others) a break At this point, you've only been out of high school for five years, so nobody expects you to have your whole life figured out. But maybe you didn't live up to your senior superlative, or the path you initially set out on got rerouted. Some of your peers are living on their own in cities while others are back in your hometown residing with their parents. People are going to judge you no matter what you tell them, but don't let it faze you. Approach everyone with an open mind.
Depending on how things have lined up, you might be in the running for one of the most "successful" people in your class. (Whatever that means.) If you are, in fact, doing extremely well these days, there might be people avoiding you. These might be the kids that greet you with a smile and open arms but keep it moving, so they don't have to talk about what they're actually doing with their lives. For the most part, nobody has anything to brag about, though.
If it's possible, try to have fun. Nothing about a reunion should be taken seriously. Enjoy getting reconnected with classmates that you haven't seen in years—maybe it will lead to rekindling old friendships! Make some new memories out of it. At the end of the day, just relax and remember: You never need to see any of these people again after it's all over... well, at least, for not another five years.