…but my college diploma turned 20 this year. I mean, really? Where has the time gone? I can’t wrap my head around any kind of mathematics that allows this to be true.
I’m not usually very big on reunions. Partially because I’m too lazy to be bothered, partially because those kinds of social scenes aren’t my thing, partially because I haven’t really been in a good place and so I’m not exactly rarin’ to get out there and answer the “how have you been” and “what are you up to” questions.
But, I went anyway — peer pressure can be a wonderful thing, right? I headed out Friday afternoon to go back to campus — a place I haven’t been in 15 years — to meet up with one of my best friends from college. It had been about 5 years since I had seen her last, and of all the activity this weekend promised, this was the one part that I was really looking forward to: catching up with her, being able to go beyond the niceties and talk about how life really was treating us.
What I didn’t realize, though, was that over the course of an entire weekend, I would get to spend approximately 20 minutes with just her. Her family is lovely — her husband, in fact, was part of our group in college and so I know him quite well — but the family wasn’t who I wanted to catch up with.
Instead of much-needed chat time with someone very dear to me, I spent the weekend engaged in banal small talk with people I barely remembered, repeatedly saying, “No, I’m not married. No, I don’t have kids.” At least that’s what it felt like. I went for the promise of connecting with an old friend and in its place I got a my very own form of nightmare socializing.
One part of the weekend that I enjoyed, though, was getting the chance to walk around and see the new buildings (they went on a building spree as soon as I left… apparently, they just needed my tuition dollars to get it started…). The fall colors were beautiful — it reminded me of all the good that came from those years and how much I envied all the students milling around.
(And on a side note, all these young kids walking around campus — when did they start allowing 14 year olds to go to college?? Damn, I feel old…)
Still, though, the visit was tinged with melancholy. During college, I had a close group of friends who I love with all my heart, but in the 20 years since we left campus, we’ve gone in entirely different directions. They are all straight, married with kids and deeply faithful to the church. And me? Single, childless, gay and not really a fan of any religious institution. As a group, I love them for who they were and what they meant to me, but it’s a little weird to realize that if I were meeting them for the first time today, we likely wouldn’t become close friends at all. Or even meet in the first place, realistically.
The stark differences between who am I now and (literally) every classmate that I ran into made me just a little sad and lonely. Not that I want what they have, but – in the moment – the craving for what the world considers a “normal life” was overwhelming. Even a slightly left-of-center life would be okay — somehow, not having a girlfriend/partner-in-crime by this point in my life makes me feel like I’ve somehow failed at what everyone else has succeeded at.
I suppose that’s one of the reasons that I usually avoid these sorts of occasions: I work hard not to get too down on myself about my life situation, but it’s impossible not to consider it when my past comes charging back into my present with a debilitating awkwardness.
But it’s time to shake it off and move forward. It was good to reconnect with my friends and reminisce over times long since gone, and I’ll enjoy keeping in “Facebook touch” with them, hearing all about their families and activities. But, it’s also worth it to realize that sometimes the past is best off staying there, that there’s a reason that it’s that way. A reminder that who I was isn’t necessarily who I have to be today, that I can appreciate my friends for what they did for me then, without needing them to be something for me now.