Ten-year high school reunions can erode happiness, demolish self-worth, and create swirling vortices of trauma and guilt. They pose a high risk of despair, dyspepsia, ennui, day-drinking, resurfacing repressed anger, and general brattiness.

High school reunion season runs from Homecoming through the New Year. Still, a reunion can happen anywhere, at any time, so it is critical to take careful precautions beforehand and develop an emergency plan.

Prepare NOW

1. Know Your Risk Level: A ten-year high school reunion might be closer than you think, so understand the warning signs. Has the last of your former-classmates recently gotten married? Did Tom and Lauren B.’s third child’s gender reveal hit Instagram? Did Marissa H., who seemed really into Teach for America for a while back there, finally complete her Wharton MBA? Then a ten-year high school reunion may already be on its way.

2. Sign Up for Local Alert Systems: Don’t be caught unawares. There are plenty of ways to keep up to date on an approaching ten-year high school reunion: the Mount St. Lawrence Class of 2009 Facebook page, the Mount St. Lawrence alumni magazine. or the newsletter you somehow still receive from Mrs. Diller in the office regarding possible 15-year-olds you might know who would be eligible for the Mount St. Lawrence Athletic Hall of Fame.

3. Gather Needed Supplies: After a ten-year high school reunion, mental roads may be blocked, and the delicate scaffolding of self-regard, demolished. Mentally prepare a list of recent accolades and successes — you never know when you may need to repeat them aloud to others, or yourself in the bathroom mirror, just like when you were fifteen. Assume that after the event, you may not be able to leave your home for days. Shop accordingly.

Survive DURING

1. Find Your Cover: If you find yourself close to an emotionally turbulent group of people, take cover behind a partner, spouse, or former teacher. Even if the party seems calm, the uncontrollable Hannah J., Sarah M., and Lindsay E. can appear without warning, unleashing untold destruction. Have three or four starter questions for teachers and administrative staff should you need to lock yourself into a mundane conversation.

2. Avoid Open Areas: Stay as close as you can to the periphery of the room, surrounded on two sides by chairs. If you can, wedge yourself next to or behind the DJ’s speaker. That way, when Kevin M. attempts to regale you with details about the car dealership he inherited from his father, you will not understand a word.

3. Preserve Energy: Load up on complimentary drinks and snacks as soon as you arrive. Identify the locations of cheeses, cured meats, and shrimp cocktail, as these items are always the first to disappear, and having food in your mouth diminishes the expectation that you will be forced to answer embarrassing questions about your abandoned creative projects. This is your hometown, so last call will be at 1 AM at the latest — FEMA recommends that you drink at least three whiskey sodas before the first member of the field hockey team arrives.

4. Seek A High Ground: If you are trapped in a political or religious conversation, seek the moral high ground. When Danielle B., who spat in your mouth in gym class in tenth grade, and Cody L., who brought the knockout game to the school junior year and gave Ahmad M. a concussion but was never penalized, decry humanitarian interventions at the border, explaining that they believe that refugees should have to pay for the time they spend in internment camps, remind them of our duty to our fellow man, and spill your sixth whiskey sour onto their faces.

5. Know your exits. When you enter the auditorium or bar where the reunion takes place, familiarize yourself with escape routes. If you are unable to leave, dive deep into your own psyche and find safety within. For details on how to construct a calming interior universe, please see the attached brochure. (FEMA L-279 “Building A Nice Little Place in Your Mind Where No One Can Hurt You” – PDF)

Survive AFTER

While most reunions only last one night, the after-effects can drag on for days, weeks, months, or even years. You could run into Nick L. at Starbucks. Maddie B. might text you to say it was great catching up with you, and that you should get drinks in the city sometime. A destabilizing Facebook message may erupt on your phone at any moment.

Remember that real preparedness is a continual process. Do not keep in touch. Remember all that you’ve worked for. Remember everything you’ve accomplished. Breathe.