It was three decades ago in 1989 when my classmates and I at Belen High School walked up onto the stage and received our diplomas. Some days, it doesn’t seem like that long ago, and others it seems like forever ago.
My husband, Matthew, and I graduated together — literally. We walked down the line together, holding hands, wondering where our lives would lead. Neither of us thought at the time that we would end up married. We got engaged about a week before our 10 year reunion.
This past weekend, about 50 or so of us (an our spouses) attended our 30th high school reunion. A fun time was had by all as we were able to reconnect with one another.
We talked about we’ve done in the past 30 years, our families, our children and some of us even proudly bragged about our grandkids.
I have to admit, many of my classmates look the same — or even better than they did in high school. I also have to admit there were one or two who I didn’t recognize and didn’t even remember. I’m sure several people didn’t remember me, either. I guess age will do that to you.
Some people travelled from all over the country to attend, and some people never left our hometown. With the advent of social media, many of us have been able keep in touch, so there weren’t too many surprises.
There were, of course, many who didn’t attend the reunion, including my best friend in high school. I understand why they didn’t want to come, but it would have been nice to see them.
One of the best nostalgic events of this reunion was talking to one former classmate about how we and another girl would try and scare each other with tales of La Lorona. We would use our recess time in elementary school telling tales of this folklore, even making up our own stories. She admitted she was scared for years, as was I.
We also remembered doing “Bloody Mary” in the school’s bathroom. What was interesting is that now we both enjoy watching scary movies with our daughters.
I think there’s a reason we stay connected to some and not to others. I was neither homecoming queen nor a wallflower. While my friends were picked on in high school for how we dressed and how we did our hair (I had a Mohawk my junior year), by the time our senior year rolled around, it was all good.
I went to some parties, I ditched class with friends from time to time, and even went to those terrible parties with cheap wine out in fields and the mesa.
We are all nearing 50 years old and are settled into our lives. Some of us are married with children and grandchildren, others have traveled the world. Some have experienced tragedy, like the devastating loss of a child or a spouse. And all of us have lost classmates, whether it be to cancer or the heartbreaking reality of suicide.
I went into this reunion not sure of what to expect, but I left with a resounding sense of pride. In high school, there were cliques, and gossip, and there was plenty of stress. But here’s the thing, none of that matters decades later.
It doesn’t matter whether you were popular or not. It doesn’t matter if you were the star athlete or a “new-waver.”
Thirty years later, none of that matters. Success isn’t measured by the car that you drive or how much money you make. It isn’t measured by your job title.
Success is what holds real meaning in your life — your happiness, your family and relationships. Success is living fully and making a difference, all while being true to yourself.
As I said my goodbyes, I took one last look at this group. I left that night feeling nostalgic and inspired. We may have a few more wrinkles, but deep down we are the same.
There’s something special about your childhood friends. You can pick right up where you left off, even if it’s been 30 years. It may be another decade before we’re all together again, but I’m grateful for the lifelong friendships.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.