I graduated from Kearney High School in 2004. If you do the math, you’ll quickly figure out that this is the year of the dreaded 10 year reunion. Well, my lucky friends, that reunion has come and went and I thought I’d share my insights with you.

I was hesitant.

Let’s be honest – I was more than hesitant… I was resistant.

I might have also been freaking out.

But just a little bit. A lot.

I don’t know what it is about the possibility of seeing people from your “glory days” that brings about so much anxiety… well maybe it doesn’t bring about anxiety in you, but it sure had that effect on me! The reality is, I hadn’t seen the majority of my graduating class in 10 years and I only Facebook stalk (oh come on – we all do it) a handful of them. And if we’re going to be really honest here (because if we aren’t, what’s the point?), if I randomly see someone from my class in Target, I usually attempt  the ‘Duck and Turn The Other Way’ technique. I’m not proud of it, but it is a fact.

I thought long and hard about going. Actually, I thought about not going. For some reason, as I was thinking about this reunion, all of my adolescent insecurities came flooding back: I’m not cool, smart, skinny, witty, enough. Will they like me? Will I fit in? Is that a zit on my chin?!

It really was quite ridiculous.    

In the end, I decided to put on my big girl high heels and take a walk down memory lane.

 The first event of the reunion was a tour of the current high school and my close friend and I decided to go to it together. We may or may not have almost turned the car around to pretend the whole thing didn’t happen, but that’s besides the point. Thankfully, the tour group was small which meant I didn’t have to dive into this reunion thing… I could gently glide in. It was trippy to walk into a place I had spent so much of my teen years in to see classmates that look the same… but older. We all quickly caught up and even though I wasn’t close with many of them during those 4 years, happy memories of each of them quickly surfaced (except about the boy who relentlessly teased me in middle school, but that’s water under the bridge).  As we walked through the halls together, voices begin to rise up, “Remember Mr. so-and-so? Oh man, remember that time…? It even smells the same!” The nostalgia was freely  flowing and it was kind of wonderful.

Although the tour was successful, I was still a little shaky about the evening event. My husband may have had to reassure me about 100 times that I looked good and that, yes, I should wear those shoes with that dress (God bless that man) and a few deep breaths may have been taken before entering the ballroom where the reunion was taking place, but I didn’t chicken out, and for that, I’ll always be thankful.

If I thought the tour was trippy, walking into that ballroom was like sending me on a time warp. After the initial shock, I begin talking with my old classmates. I kept thinking, “Wow! I forgot how awesome this person is! Holy cow, they really grew up.” Of course, there was still a popular table (it’s only to be expected) but for the most part, I found myself enjoying the time with my old friends and getting a glimpse into the lives they’ve made for themselves.

As I looked around, my insecurities faded away and my desire to impress these people disappeared.  I realized that these individuals are a part of who I am: they were my first crush, we danced together, they watched me blush through my many awkward moments, we shared secrets, we studied together, we had feuds, we preformed together, we cried together, and we celebrated together. However, I also realized that these people don’t define who I am – my success in life is not determined by their meter of success. Throughout the evening, I learned that my classmates have done amazing things – there are doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, software developers, producers, an accountant whose office takes weekly yoga breaks (how freaking awesome is that?!), and one of them just made Forbes Top 30 Under 30 list! I’m incredibly proud of these people – they are leading extraordinary lives… and so am I.  Our extraordinary lives may be drastically different but that doesn’t make them any less significant. Unlike the 16 year old Danell, I know who I am and have a confidence that cannot be shattered by people I shared 4 years of my life with. Those were not “The Best Years of My Life” – I’m living them now and I hope to be living them 10 years from now.

KHS class of 2004 – I’m glad I get the privilege of being a very small part of your history.

I hope to see you in another 10 years.


And if you notice me completing the ‘Duck and Turn Away’ in Target, don’t be offended… I probably just didn’t shower that day.

Danell Will

Danell is a Kearney native who recently moved to Northwest Arkansas. She is the happy wife to a tall, bearded red-headed man and a mother to a feisty, but very loveable, red-headed 5-year-old girl. In May, she graduated with her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and has since taken a short break from working and studying to be at stay-at-home mom. She enjoys (in no particular order) dance parties in the living room, downward dog, a good cup of chai, books that want to make you stay up until 2am, meaningful conversations over a glass of wine, and reflecting on this messy, but always beautiful life.