High School Reunion

We are thrilled to be celebrating the graduation of 78 students at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology’s annual Commencement ceremony this weekend. It’s a sure sign that summer is here again: graduations, reunions, weddings—so many opportunities to see old friends and revisit old experiences. While it’s an exciting time, these events can also carry a certain ambivalence as we face potentially awkward interactions and the possibility of confronting painful memories. On this week’s podcast, Dan wrestles with that ambivalence as he and his wife, Becky, prepare to return to Ohio for their 45th high school reunion.

“It’s an experience of shock. […] Research has indicated that most of us hold the visual image of who we are at somewhere between 28 and 32 years of age. Well, to be going to the 45th high school reunion means that most of us are 62-64 years of age. We’ve aged. But when I see a peer I’ve not seen for years, I’m always stunned by how old they look—which, as my wife reminds me, is a good indication that they’re likely saying the exact same thing with regard to me. Which seems preposterous, because I don’t look that old.”

In addition to feeling shocked by your own age and dreading potentially awkward encounters, another issue that reunions evoke is the permeability of memory. Dan discusses the idea of geotags—the phenomenon in which a particular location awakens long-dormant memories and emotions.

“The brain holds awareness of trauma in a location. […] It’s as if those memories have been held in that place, waiting for you to return, and now they divulge, they expose, they reveal themselves to you . That’s why there’s such bittersweetness to even going home. […] There is nostalgia, but there’s also darkness.”

How do we approach these events in a way that gives a higher potential for goodness? Dan discusses the importance of approaching these events with a sense of openness and curiosity, intrigued by what you might discover about all of the people you once knew.

“There’s nothing in the world like curiosity—it’s not interrogation, but it’s an exploration, an invitation to others to encode in story their life on your behalf, to be able to give you windows into the heartbreak, the complexity, the goodness of the human heart.”