The invitation to your high school reunion arrives, and you’re instantly flooded with a range of emotions—curiosity, but also hesitation. What’s the right decision here? Should you go? Studies have shown that people are most likely to attend based on how positive their actual memories of high school were. Still, the ability to keep tabs on our peers from the past via social media deeply influences the decision to attend. (If you already know that your once-dreamy prom date Bill is now divorced with four kids, what’s the point?) We checked in with Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar to talk through signs you should RSVP yes...or no.
3 Signs You Shouldn’t Go to Your Reunion
1. Your Reaction to the Invite Is Negative
Like we said, you’re likely to experience a range of emotions upon first glance at that reunion invite. But if your dominant reaction is one that leaves you feeling physically stressed out or anxious, it’s likely best to skip, says Anwar. “Pay attention to what your body is telling you,” she recommends. “If you experience any anxiety symptoms like sweaty palms or a racing pulse as a response, it’s better to skip.”
2. You’re Struggling to Let Go of Past Trauma
Maybe you were bullied. Maybe you’re worried no one will remember you when you breeze through the doors. Yes, going to your high school reunion can be a way to reconnect with old classmates and reminisce about happy memories, but if you’re coming up short on those in your reflections, it may be better to pass. “A reunion can trigger a lot of past traumatic experiences from a time in your life that you’d rather forget,” Anwar says. “If that’s the case, take the pressure off yourself and opt out.”
3. You’ve Moved Beyond That Time in Your Life
Positive emotions your high school reunion should spark: joy, curiosity, nostalgia. But if—regardless of your high school experience—you’re kind of set leaving the past in the past, it’s A-OK to opt out. Any emotional labor attached to a reunion should be fun. “Your decision should be a comfortable choice,” says Anwar.
3 Signs You Should Attend
1. You Feel Happy About Where You Are in Life
It’s the Romy and Michelle complex—the pressure to prove yourself the minute you walk in the door. But for those who feel authentically content in who they’ve become, attending a high school reunion, no matter what your past high school experience was can deliver a boost and even be validating, which is a solid reason to RSVP yes. “Make a pros and cons list and see where you land,” Anwar says. High school really helps us establish our identity; it can be empowering to have a chance to unveil who you’ve become.
2. Enough Time Has Passed
Five years post-graduation can feel a bit too soon to reminisce, but 25 or 30 years since you last saw your high school classmates is often when nostalgia becomes the priority. It’s less about a checklist of accomplishments and more just genuine enthusiasm for catching up with old friends, says Anwar. It can also be a thrill to hear others’ recollections of that time and have a chance to think back on shared experiences that only a specific group of people in your life know.
3. You’re Eager to Get a Bit of Closure
High school was a very formative time in our lives, yes. But it also doesn’t always wrap up with a perfect bow. Perhaps there’s someone you lost touch with unintentionally or a relationship that ended on bad terms that you’d like to make right. A high school reunion can have a clean slate effect. Better yet, people can really surprise you, which is one of the more fun elements of choosing to go.