If you want to feel old, mark the passing of a quarter century since you’ve accomplished something. Such was how I felt when I walked into the room of old people at my 25th college reunion and found out that they were my classmates. I was a teenager at the same time as these balding men and highlights-to-cover-the-grey women. As far as I was concerned, they were still teenagers.
I know I’m still only barely comfortable with the idea that I’m an actual adult with authority and decision making power. It scares the bejeebers out of me that it is now my generation – the 40 somethings – that is running the world. How is that possible? We’re still trying to find someone 21 to run up to the grocery store to get us whatever beer is cheapest. In fact this very room, the one I’m standing in at the reunion, has federal judges and CEOs and former Fulbright scholars and supervising physicians and award winning authors and tv personalities in it.
Aren’t these the same people who burned anything that wasn’t nailed down when we won a basketball game against UNLV in 1991? Who drank mystery punch out of a plastic lined trash can at 2 in the morning? How are they (we) in charge of anything?
I learned a lot of things about myself during my college reunion weekend. I learned that despite how much I’ve grown and changed as a human being in the past 25 years, the people I loved the most at the age of 21 are still the people I love the most. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t seen each other for 5 or 10 or 25 years. We still have plenty to talk about and we still throw back our heads and laugh at the same things.
One of my friends brought a book put together by someone who would later publish an award winning national magazine. It was a face book in the days before Face Book. It had our pictures, our dorms, and our phone numbers so we could all find each other on campus. I pored through the pages. I might have recognized one face or name on each page. Maybe. Not always.
Even the majority of the people in the actual reunion room didn’t seem terribly familiar to me. My friends were my friends, but everyone else was kind of hazy. I worried about this. Either I was deeply unpopular in college and truly didn’t know most of my classmates, or I have blocked out large chunks of memory. Or, perhaps, rather than having blocked them, I have cleared out those memory cells to make room for more memories. I can only fit so many in my head, and I have to ruthlessly prune back branches from time to time in order to make the roses grow.
Or something like that.
I think it’s mostly because I’m not much of a reminiscer. I spend most of my mental energy worrying about how I’m going to accomplish what needs to be done in the present in a way that doesn’t sabotage the future. I don’t have much mental capital left over to rehash what happened back when the first George Bush was taking office. It is what it is. It was what it was. Moving on.
The whole thing made even me nostalgic for the late 80s, when my peers and I were applying to college and cautiously greeting our freshman roommates for the first time. Everything was possible, and yet we all felt too young to reach out and grab it with both hands. College was our safety net, when we could try things out all the while knowing that there was only so far down we could fall. I love my family and the path I’m on, but I miss having a life full of choices and freedom. But I had it once, and I suppose that’s more than most people can say.
Of course, some things never change. We were still talking about applying to college and majors and career choices. Only this time we were talking about our children instead of ourselves.
[Cue music from the Lion King.]
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.