Mentally prepping for your 10-Year reunion

Dec 2, 2013 at 4:28 p.m. ET

With my 10-year high school reunion looming, I wonder how I will be perceived and what it will be like.

friends reunion

People say who you are in high school is who you are for the rest of your life. The jocks, the nerds and the girls every guy wanted to date — however your school defined those groups is something you carry with you as you move through each life phase. And... isn't that terrifying? On the eve of my 10-year high school reunion, I am hoping to find out that I am not entirely that same person and instead have taken the past 10 years and grown.

I imagine every 17-year-old has some fear and hesitation around who she is. I know I did.

When I asked my younger brother to shed some light on what I was like in high school (he was a freshman when I was a senior), he said, "You were the first person to jump down someone's throat, but if you cared about them, you were also the first person to have their back — and not much has changed."

When I asked my dad the same question, he said that I was fiercely loyal to my friends, cared deeply about how I did in school and had little tolerance for mediocrity — also none of which has changed. In reality, these traits are not terrifying to have, but they were assets I wasn't aware were important at the time. It was critically important to just be viewed as popular.

My 17-year-old self was hypersensitive to how I was viewed. I was never good enough compared to my peers or compared to where I perceived my peers to be. I wanted to be better at sports, I wanted more guys to ask me out, I wanted my parents to be cooler, I wanted to have a better wardrobe... the list could go on. I wanted all of these things instead of what I actually had — which are all of the traits I've carried with me that have led me to my current life. Ten years after high school, I have a degree in history from the University of Maryland, work at Fortune 500 company, recently got married (and acquired a stepson) and live in New York City. I think my 17-year-old self would be pretty stoked to see all of this.

What I realize now is that high school is a race to just be like everyone else, to fit in and not stand out. I think I'll be happy to see many of my peers who made that phase of my life so rich and fun. I'm curious to see how I will be perceived. Will I revert back to being 17 among this group, or will I be more secure with who I am? Because for me, after 10 years, I am hoping to be viewed as someone who stands out.