I have done the unimaginable. I purchased a ticket to my 30 year high school reunion. The only plausible explanation for that is I'm now a pod, as in the movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
What gives? I managed to avoid all the previous gatherings without so much as a second thought. I don't particularly have fond memories of high school or any affinity for the vast majority of my classmates. When graduation arrived, I never once looked back, choosing to keep in touch with only 1 true friend. And yet, I've made a non-refundable hotel reservation.
As a result, I've been examining my motivation to attend in light of my past tendency to avoid. I think it has something to do with relationships, an area in which I've always struggled. Relationships are critical to the quality of a life. Strong, healthy ones enrich your own experience. They broaden your perspectives, magnify your achievements, and soften your disappointments. They are symbiotic, providing as much as taking. They are our tether to this world and that which makes life worthwhile.
During high school, I was shy and introverted. I had difficulty being outgoing enough to forge strong relationships. I wasn't unhappy - just afraid, I think. Plus, building relationships simply wasn't important to me. The foundation for all of that certainly was rooted in irrational fear - of rejection, of awkwardness, of ridicule. I wasn't taking enough chances and that pattern didn't change much over subsequent years until relatively recently when I had an epiphany. Relationships matter.
That was a tough revelation for me. Once it clicked, I realized how few meaningful relationships I had formed. It became important to me to rectify that. Oddly enough, I've been with my wife, Ann for nearly 28 years so I had an excellent relationship building model to refer to.
I made a conscious decision to find ways to push beyond the comfort zone I had created. I accidently became a community activist (read that long tale on The Rotterdam Windmill), ran for political office, and became a Realtor in my spare time. All of these activities forced me to actively engage people. It was scary but through it all, I solidified one of my personal mantras. "I'm not worried by what others think of me." Essentially, I learned to like myself. Sounds corny, I know, but I know who I am now and I'm comfortable with it. Of course, I managed to form some valuable, lasting relationships along the way.
Today, I still have fewer strong bonds than I'd prefer but I'm constantly reminding myself to take the risks necessary to build new relationships (or renew forgotten ones) and strengthen the already existing ones. I try to embrace the sometimes uncomfortable opportunities to do that now rather than run from them...which is why I think I have a ticket and hotel reservation.