From The Cafeteria Lunch Table To A Group Text

Coming Full Circle With My High School Friends

“Your current friends know who you are, but your childhood friends know why”

From the ages of 14 to 17, I attended Plantation High School. Like most high school students, I had a core group of friends who were involved in most aspects of my life, and at the center of our little universe was our cafeteria lunch table. For 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, the lunch table served as our place of congregation. It’s where we met up daily to talk about girls, draft fantasy baseball teams, share test questions and act like teenagers (i.e. “I’ll give you $5 if you mix your chocolate milk with ketchup and chug it”).

As a teenager, I didn’t know enough to truly appreciate the camaraderie we developed sitting around that table. To be honest all I clearly remember is counting the days until we could drive and leave campus for lunch, but looking back on it now I realize how much the people around that table impacted who I was at the time. They were my partners in crime, and at times my adversaries. They were my support system, while also being the most likely to point out my faults. They helped shape me as a person — the music I listened to, the clothes I wore, the slang words I used — and without their influence, I likely wouldn’t be who I am today.

It’s clear that my friends sitting around that small table were pretty much everything to me, and it wasn’t really possible to envision my life years later when we wouldn’t all be closely connected. Like most high schoolers I naively assumed my “lunch table crew” would always be my closest friends. As most of us come to realize later in life, things change and unfortunately these relationships followed what I believe is likely the normal life-cycle for most high school friendships.

Phase 1: Off to College

Exciting times!!! Most of us were attending different schools, but between the road trips and heading home on breaks, we were able to see each other pretty frequently.

Phase 2: Welcome to the Real World (Post College)

Following graduation we found ourselves scattered across the country looking for employment and/or working endless hours to jump start a career. We spoke occasionally, but much less frequently than in the past. With social media and text messaging still years away, I ended up keeping in touch with a few of the guys and through them was able to keep tabs on the remainder of our circle of friends.

Phase 3: The Year Long Hora

As we hit our late 20s/early 30s we entered the “wedding stage” — which found us back together a few times a year for the various festivities (bachelor parties and wedding receptions). This provided an opportunity to revive our friendships and allowed us to assimilate our significant others into our tight-knit crew.

Phase 4: I’d Love To…If I Could Find the Time

Once the “wedding stage” died down, the days of us all getting together were over. Sure there was the occasional, “I’ll be in town for business, let’s grab dinner”, but even those were rare and often just a one-off with unfulfilled promises of doing a better job of keeping in touch.

Before I knew it, careers and families had taken over, and even the occasional phone call became nothing more than a potential call on a birthday, with even those fading out eventually.

Phase 5: It’s Been How Long Since We Last Spoke?

As we entered our 40’s, the amount of contact between the group of friends I had grown up with was at an all-time low. It made sense; we were all busy — raising children, coaching sports, attending recitals, saving for the future. I didn’t think about it often, likely because Facebook provided me a false sense of knowing what they were up to, but there was no doubt that time and distance had eroded our friendships.

I assume many friendships remain in Phase 5 for years, and eventually fade slowly until all that’s left are the memories. Maybe a tragic event brings the group back together as only tragedy can, and provides the opportunity to reconnect and commiserate about the many years that you can never get back.

Phase 6: Just Like Old Times

After spending many years in Phase 5, a small group of my high school friends decided to celebrate the life-long friendships we neglected for too many years by organizing a trip to Vegas. This was no easy endeavor, as we needed to coordinate around the schedule of our 13 kids, as well as seek permission from our wives. Considering that we often spent entire lunch periods arguing over where to go eat and who would drive, scheduling this trip may have been our group’s greatest accomplishment.

It took about a year to coordinate, but eventually we all arrived in Vegas and had an amazing weekend. We did all the usual Vegas activities, but the best times were when it was just the 6 of us hanging out and talking. Memories were shared, stories were told and after 3 days together it was clear that even though we had all “grown-up”, not much about the way we interacted as a group had changed.

Unfortunately the 3 days were over before I knew it, and it was time to head back to reality. We said our goodbyes and agreed that we shouldn’t wait another 10 years to do this again.

For those that make it to Phase 6, the experience can be a bit overwhelming. For me personally, and I hope my friends feel the same way, it was such an unbelievable feeling to be back to together again. Being more mature, and having experienced so much more of life, I had a greater appreciation of each of my friends and our shared experiences. It was also pretty cool how we were all much more comfortable sharing our feelings about how lucky we are to still have each other. I love you guys!

Phase 7: Till Death Do Us Part

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. It’s been a few months since I returned from Vegas and while “real life” has once again taken over, something a bit unexpected emerged from this trip. Let me explain…

As we were planning the trip, we set up a group text to coordinate our plans. And now, months later, our group text has taken on a life of its own. It continues to provide a forum for us to nurture our relationship while still attending to all the priorities that our hectic lives demand. With 6 of us on the text, it is rare that we go more than a few days without activity. We send pictures of our children (all proud fathers), provide play-by-play of 5th grade spelling bees, brainstorm business ideas, fundraise for cub scouts/girl scouts, share pictures of dinners cooked, send gym selfies, recommend movies/books/bands and of course we make fun of each other/support each other — like only a group of lifelong friends can.

As our friendships are approaching 30+ years and high school is more than half a lifetime ago, much has changed — we’ve transitioned from board games to board rooms, gained weight, lost hair, bought homes and started families — yet our friendships remain strong.

I don’t want to get too sappy, but the group text has afforded us the opportunity to be present, granted it’s a virtual presence, in each other’s lives. I am privileged to have frequent, direct and timely communication with a group of friends who predate my career, my wife and my children.

I only wish we would have started it sooner, as the group text has become a modern version of our high school lunch table.

If this blog resonates with you, I encourage you to send a group text to your childhood friends — just let them know you are thinking about them and see what happens. Please share your thoughts, or personal group text stories in the comment section below.

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