Hi, friends! I just got back from my 45th high school reunion in Cleveland, Ohio. It was so nice to experience belonging, connection, warmth, and authenticity with old friends. We are all 63 now, and everybody was just happy to be alive and be together.

I know high school memories aren’t so happy for many people. That’s why there are all those movies about high school with cliques and mean kids and bullying.

I’m grateful that wasn’t my experience.

We only had 105 kids in our class, so there weren’t a lot of people that flew in for the reunion. There seems to be 25 or 30 people that still live in Cleveland that are still connected. The rest of us that showed up were a self-selected group who all wanted to feel that sense of belonging. I loved every minute of it.

What made it even more special: I almost didn’t get to go. My husband and I had just returned from a trip to Panama, where we both caught a stomach bug. I thought, “Oh my God, I’m not going to be able to make it!” Fortunately, my doctor gave me a Medrol (methylprednisolone) dose pack, and after three days I was peppy enough to fly!

I stayed at my girlfriend Shari’s house, and it was beautiful to be back in the Midwest in the springtime. There’s nothing like the lush green of new grass everywhere. There were tons of birds and the flowers were in all stages of budding and blooming. It’s not like here where I live in Rancho Santa Fe, where there are huge flowering hedges year-round. In Ohio, everything freezes in the winter and has to be reborn in the spring.

Shari had a big group of people for dinner at her house Friday night. Then on Saturday, my old boyfriend and his wife picked me up and we went to his house to sit in the backyard and catch up. This was a boy I dated for six years on and off – we grew up together. It was in the later part of our long distance relationship when he started dating the woman who would be his wife, and I started dating Lowell who would be my husband, that we talked about how those people were the right choices for each of us. There never was a breakup; it was more a best wishes for the future. It was lovely to hang out with them, and see how similar our values still are, all these years later.

They took me back to Shari’s, and that night’s festivities were at a restaurant and bar owned by one of our classmates. He had reserved a room for us, and about 20 of us showed up to reconnect. The next day another one of our classmates and his wife opened up their home for a brunch. I got to go to all three gatherings, and each was such a warm and loving experience. It was nice to see what good people we all grew up to be, and how we still share similar values. The “similar values” theme struck me again – I’m not sure there is another way to say it! It was also bittersweet because of the classmates we missed who have already passed away.

When it came time to say goodbye, we all said “See you at the 50th,” but the truth is, none of us know if we will make it. If you get to my age and you have the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and want to do it, now is the time.

You might wonder how it’s possible to stay in touch with classmates after 45 years.

The simple answer is that I have Facebook to thank.

Facebook gets a bad rap because of all the bragging and comparing that people do: This person looks thinner than you; this person looks more successful; this person’s kids graduated from college. It takes mindful self-compassion to get to the point where you feel happy for people, and not like you are less just because your life is different. Then you can have gratitude and sympathetic joy, which feels a lot better than envy. Gratitude is the antidote for envy, just as mindful self-compassion is the antidote for shame.

So there’s a good side to what my friend Amy calls Gracebook when it comes to helping people reconnect! Sometime back before our 30th reunion, people from the class of 1979 started reaching out and friending each other. That encouraged me to go to the 30th reunion after missing the 15th, 20th and 25th gatherings.

A few years later our school, Hawken Upper School, put on a whole series of events around the school’s 100th anniversary, including reunions with the classes of 1978 and 1980 in addition to mine. That was fun because I had friends in all those classes. I didn’t get to go to the 40th reunion because my father’s health was failing, but my friends all Facetimed me from dinner at that one.

Maybe the reason I get so much out of these gatherings is the way I love rediscovering the connections we share. I was a theater kid and was in all the shows, rehearsing every day after school. We did three shows each year: a drama in the fall, a musical in the winter when all the sports kids could participate, and a comedy in the spring.

I actually wanted to waive my senior year and go to college in theater. Ithaca College accepted me a year early but the school board wouldn’t allow it because I had one physical education credit left to finish. So I stayed in Cleveland to do gym class for the first trimester, and then I left to do an extended senior project in Washington, D.C., working at a theater, performing in shows, and taking drama and movement classes. My sister let me live with her, so it was safe for me to be there as a 17-year-old in the big city.

As it turned out, I was glad I didn’t waive my senior year and go to college a year early, because if I had, who knows where I’d be, what I’d be doing, and who I would be now? I was accepted at NYU, BU, and Syracuse for theater conservatory as an undergrad, but then I panicked and ended up going to a regular liberal arts school, the University of Michigan. That’s where I met my boyfriend in my sophomore year; and now he’s my husband and the father of my children.

So you never know what’s going to happen in life.

Now, all these years later, I cherish the connection and sense of belonging I have with my old friends and even acquaintances that went to school with me. We’ve been through 45 years of life since graduation, which means all of us have suffered losses, muddled through difficult experiences, and figured out how to find moments of joy to string together like pearls.

At the reunion, there were two different people who were estranged from their siblings. I understand in some cases it wouldn’t be healthy to try to repair a relationship if the other person would be damaging to you. But in other cases, I wonder if these fractures can’t be repaired.

Some may have drifted apart from those they cared about through no fault of either person. In a time when human connections are frayed and loneliness is epidemic, rekindling relationships might just fuel the comfort, hope, and joy we all long to feel.

Please share your thoughts. . .