Reunions are typically between one or more people from our past and can be exciting, heart-warming, and daunting experiences.
But who are we really reuniting with?
In April, we went to England and reunited with my husband’s family and friends. He hadn’t hung out with his buddies in probably 20 years. It was a thrill to watch him. He seemed to be reuniting with his younger, carefree, mischievous self. His English accent became slightly thicker and his laugh slightly louder, if that’s possible.
While in England, we also reunited with his mum, whom he hadn’t seen in about eight years (our son and I saw her just before Covid). We even reunited with her lovely little house and the wondrously charming village of Englefield. So, it seems reunions can happen with things and places as well.
Then this weekend, there were two more reunions. We hosted a dinner for some old friends of my husband’s whom we hadn’t seen for 20 years. The last time was when our babies were babies. It was surreal to talk and laugh as if no time had passed. We knew each other but we also didn’t.
It takes a bit of an adjustment to figure out how to connect with people after a long time apart, and it’s a little uncomfortable, to be honest. So, I just kept busy bustling in the kitchen. It helped that there were present-day friends at the dinner with whom I could ground myself. It was like a reminder: oh yeah…this is me today.
Stretching back even further in time, I reunited with friends from my air cadet days. Many of us hadn’t seen in each other for 30 years. What prompted it? The second Top Gun movie opened this weekend and since I saw the first one with these same people, it seemed fitting to see the second one with them. We met for the movie and then gathered at a pub afterwards reliving the hay days of our youth.
It strikes me in this moment that reunions are like time travel. We travelled back to our teen years through the stories that were told. I heard perspectives about me and others that I had either forgotten or didn’t notice from the vantage point of my lived experience. I got a peek into my past through the various narration of other people’s memories.
What happened internally was strange and a little discombobulating. I got this sense of drifting in and out of being me.
During all of the reunions, there were moments of being myself fully.
The Me I’ve come to know today: I’m 48, a mom, a wife, and a friend. I love and am loved. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I know I’m more than this body, my job, or anything else external. I’m rooted in a knowing and an unknowing of my true nature.
Then there were also moments when I was 15, 17, 20, 25 years old again. And I FELT that age again; I felt the old embarrassment, pride, insecurity, jealousy, excitement, or the butterflies of an old crush I had from that time. I had to consciously return to the present, letting go of old paradigms.
It is strange to be pulled back and forth through time, through old versions of myself. I felt powerless to it, as if the time lords were having their way with me. Powerless and yet what a trip! Perhaps that’s the gift of reunions.
I WAS wondering what the point was of gathering with people whom I had spent my teenage years. After all, they are like strangers; I have no idea of their interests, desires, values, or preferences, which is really no different from any other stranger I might meet.
Except they aren’t the same as any other stranger.
These lovely people are an important part of my formative years. During those teen years when I tested out who I was and definitely who I wasn’t. We were all doing that then. Experiementing with what felt right and what aspects of our personalities felt true. Collecting data, not all of it pleasant. Evolving into adult versions of ourselves. Different yet the same as the little ones inside of us.
All our emotional reactivity stems from the unresolved patterns of youth. Therefore, there is a maelstrom of information to be found in those years. People from the past could hold precious keys to the inner working of my psyche for all I know. Now isn’t THAT a load of pressure to put on someone from the past?!
No. Now that I think about it, it’s more likely that I uncover the precious keys myself as I revisit those times.
However, it’s painful to revisit my younger self since I felt so insecure during my teens and twenties. I used to morph and squish myself into what I thought would make me fit in. While that pull isn’t so strong now, I have to admit it’s not entirely gone either. It seeps in now and then.
During these reunions, I had a sense of my young ghost standing next to me. I could almost see her sheepishly and, at times, connivingly standing there, ready to jump in and take over.
There was a time when I really didn’t like her. Go away, I might think. I’m not you anymore. I’m better now.
Better. What a judgement on my young self. As if there was something to fix then. Something to fix now.
It would be easy to shame her. To label her as wrong or bad for her misbehaviour in the past. Or, in some ways, label her as better for her youth and vibrant physicality. I notice that it’s easy to compare today’s me to yesterday’s as better or worse, as superior or deficient.
But I could also join with her. I could see her as beautifully innocent, trying her best to walk through this life intact. I could forgive her for her confusions and missteps, and I could applaud her bravery. I could comfort her heartbreaks. And I could soothe her wounded feelings. I could bring her onto my lap and assure her that I won’t abandon her, that I’m here with her and for her.
We could reunite.
I could reunite with those parts of me that I left behind in the name of maturity, growth, improvement, and evolvement. I could invite her on the journey rather than leave her behind. She has wisdom I’ve forgotten along the way. I can be so hard on the me of today based on judgments and beliefs of how I should be. Was my young self as jaded and refined in her beliefs? In some ways, perhaps.
The truer truth is that there was nothing wrong with me then and there’s nothing wrong with me now.
According to the online Dictionary, the definition of a reunion is “the act or process of being brought together again as a unified whole.”
These reunions were a unification. Three reunions with precious people from my life; three different me’s in space and time, reunited, also.