This past weekend, I traveled to the East Coast for my 20th college reunion - crazy! I kept asking myself the rhetorical question "How did this happen?". Jeez, 20 years seems like a very long time to have graduated from college. The list of personal, national and international events that have occurred since then is fairly lengthy.
When my alma mater first contacted me about the reunion, I had my doubts about going. I'd conveniently skipped the 5th, 10th and 15th, partly because, for the first decade of post-college life, weddings and other events seemed to bring classmates back together, so I could catch up with people and hear about their careers, families and interests. That era seems to have passed now that people are having and raising kids, an event that does not call for friends to meet up. I've seen some friends a few times in this past decade, but, to be honest, I haven't stayed in touch with people very well, even with the ever-growing abundance of social media that connects everyone. Maybe I was curious to see how 20 years had changed my classmates and Davidson, but mainly I thought that it would be a fun weekend and that I shouldn't miss it.
So, I made plans back in April - buying a ticket and getting a hotel room - and forgot about planning until about a week before leaving, when I rented a car. Taking the red-eye, I packed on Thursday afternoon, we spent Thursday afternoon/evening hanging around Venice Beach before I caught my plane from LAX.
The Venice Canals are always fun and worthy of a quick picture!
As for the reunion, I'm not sure what I expected. As I said, I was curious about seeing people and places. I did reconnect with old friends which was awesome, and it's funny because there people that I remember thinking "I know I didn't like you in college, but it doesn't matter anymore.". That was the most significant thought I had regarding people. That and the regret that I feel about not staying in better touch. The other thought was that we looked pretty good but we were no longer young and hip! I saw the younger reunion groups and they were definitely that - younger! My final thought from the night - what a lot of lawyers! That was definitely one of the most popular career tracks that people seemed to follow post-college.
I definitely did not feel overly nostalgic for life in college. I did pass by dorms I once called home and walked through the main classroom building, Chambers, but much of my wanderings around campus made me wonder about how much had changed (so many new buildings! A coffee shop on campus!) and how much had stayed the same (traditional red brick buildings, nice green expanses of lawns). Coming from CA, the biggest shock was how green everything was! I mean literally GREEN, not eco or environmental, but lush, verdant plants and trees. That was my first thought when the plane flew into Charlotte.
Other than seeing friends, the highlight of the weekend was a nice run from the college campus to what is known as the "Lake Campus", a trek that would have been unthinkable on foot when I was in college but made for a perfect Saturday morning long run. I was a bit skeptical about the road situation (would a car hit me? would a dog attack me?), but people were quite courteous, and I really enjoyed the run. There was an organized bike ride happening, which would have also been totally unthinkable when I was in college in that area, so it was fun to look at the bikes and wish that I'd brought shoes and pedals and rented a bike for the morning!
Saturday night was the final shin-dig, for me at least, and we even took a class picture. I think about 25% of our class was there - definitely a small group, but it's a small school! I'm on the front row talking to someone - nice shot of me with my head completely turned around. The most interesting thing about the evening was "experiencing" the reunion speaker - our former dean of students who ended up insulting pretty much everyone there thanks to his sexist, classist and racist remarks. It was impressive to see someone just crash and burn that spectacularly in person. (It's not funny at all, but wow! It gave us something to talk about!)
This trip was so brief that I was back in LA by noon on Sunday, and it almost seemed surreal that I had woken up in North Carolina hours ago. Upon my return, someone asked if I'd had any major revelations on this trip, and I bluntly said that I did not. Which is true, but I certainly did feel the passage of time and the paradox that people and places change but also stay the same. I also think that this is a better school than when I attended, and not just academically but in terms of the programs the school offers and the students that it attracts. In a way, I wish that I could return to college, only because I think that I could "do it" better - meaning, hindsight is 20/20. I would take different classes, be more active in other aspects of college life, perhaps I would drink and study a bit less (both of which I did quite a bit).
Then again, I'm pretty happy with where I am, so maybe I wouldn't change a thing? I do know this - I'm happy that I went to college but I'm even happier that I'm not IN college anymore!