Hate School Reunions? Grow Up.
I’m sad I’m missing my 40th college reunion this week because I’m teaching in Baja. It’s only in the past ten years that I’ve started to appreciate the formative relationships and deep emotional bonds I forged with my Stanford friends, which began in the era when Jimmy Carter was President.
Before turning 50, I felt a reunion represented one of those distorted circus mirrors. Because my aging process has been incremental, I didn’t notice how much I’d aged. So, it was somewhat jarring to see a long-lost college friend’s bald spot, paunchy belly, or, Heavens-to-Betsy, their botched plastic surgery. This was a mirror I didn’t want to see.
Additionally, for the first couple of decades out of college, we’re still in the competing and comparing mode, which includes how successful and happy we appear to others. Of course, as we all know, comparison is the perfect recipe for suffering, especially at a reunion.
And then, for those of us who’ve made pretty significant changes in our identity since college (sexual orientation, politics, religious or spiritual beliefs, etc.), a reunion can feel like a jail sentence—going back to a role or reputation that feels as ill-fitting as a shoe two sizes too small.
It’s no wonder I had so many excuses to miss many of my past reunions. But, today, I feel wistful that I won’t be tipping a beer back with my fraternity brothers at Zott’s (aka the Alpine Inn) and that I won’t be having the “how do we save the world” all-nighter conversations with some of my freshmen dorm mates.
High school or college reunions are a perfect litmus test for our life satisfaction and desire for connection. The good news is—just like the U-curve of Happiness—that life (and reunions) have the possibility to keep getting better as we get older.