By Diana Montague, Communication Department Chair
I recently went to my 40th high school class reunion. (Yes, 40th. You do the math—I went to high school
when dinosaurs roamed the earth.) This was the first reunion I ever attended because a.) I didn’t like
high school, and b.) I didn’t like high school.
I was pretty invisible in high school: not a stand-out athlete, not a brainiac, not a social leader. And with the exception of chatting with my small group of high school friends, I was fairly invisible at the reunion, too.
People would surreptitiously look at nametags of people they couldn’t identify on the spot, and then exhibit either the lightbulb of recognition (“you’re THAT person from 40 years ago?”) or the look of befuddled ignorance (“Who are you? I had no idea you were in my class.”)
I got a good deal of the latter.
That lack of acknowledgement, lack of recognition was disconcerting at first, and soon after, humbling. The person I am now at UF is not the person I was in high school.
Now don’t get me wrong— the reunion was a lovely affair. The organizers did a magnificent job of
communicating with the entire class spread across the globe, preparing a variety of venues and
providing entertainment and social time. But I still felt like I was more of an observer than a full
In retrospect, my high school time under Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak was my own fault. I had a few close friends, but I never tried to cultivate relationships with people outside my small circle. At the reunion I saw how some of my classmates were truly delighted to see each other after many years. They
had built relationships in high school; I had, for the most part, avoided them.
In the book “How Will You Measure Your Life,” Clayton Christensen stresses that if relationships are important to us, and they should be, we have to develop them early and continue to nurture them. Christensen notes that where we put our resources (time, talent, treasure) is where the rubber hits the road. We can’t just say relationships are important, we have to follow through and show that with actions. If we don’t put in time and energy to create strong bonds with friends and family while we’re in a good place in our lives, we can’t expect them to rescue us when we face challenging situations. Relationships are valuable, and must be continuously treated as valuable, or they will become expendable.
I tell you about my high school invisibility because I learned my lesson—I built better relationships during and after college. I saw college as an opportunity to start over and make new friends.
College is about the relationships you build, both personal and professional. You’ll probably not remember the equations you memorized for chem exams but you will remember who you studied with to pass the test. You may not remember what you did for a capstone project, but you will remember the people who shared your angst as you put on the finishing touches and cheered you on as you presented your final masterpiece.
As we begin another school year, I offer this advice: Don’t be invisible. Meet new people, join new clubs, make lunch dates with friends, check in on those who need encouragement. The relationships you foster now will sustain you, comfort you, build you up later in life when you need that support. And if you ever go to your 40th high school reunion, be kind to those you don’t remember. They will appreciate the acknowledgement.