If you return to high school or college years later for your reunion, you're likely to experience one of three common reactions. Of these, two are sufficiently unproductive that you might as well skip the event altogether. In contrast, the third option is sweet beyond words, and well worth making the time and taking the trip.
No doubt there are other options, or at least variations of them. But at my 25th Williams College reunion in Massachusetts last weekend, my classmates and I experienced and expressed these three perspectives.
- Option 1: Some people became lost in nostalgia, comparing how much better things were with how things are now. For some of my classmates, things referred to the new buildings on campus that have sprouted from the ground like mushrooms after a rain. For others, things were the social interactions that, while confusing at the time, were ever so much less complicated than our more recent experiences of committed relationships, marriages, divorces and parenthood. Either way, nostalgia holds us in the past and provides fertile soil for comparisons, disappointment and distraction. If it tugs at you, my advice is to resist the pull: stay present, see what is now with fresh eyes and find fulfillment in the richness of experience that encompasses change.
To be totally honest, I never expected to return to my college, and only attended the reunion because an inspiringly energetic and organized classmate wisely cast the line of invitation until she hooked me and reeled me in. I am so very glad she fished so widely, and brought half our class home.
Whatever the nature of your experience in high school or college, I strongly urge you to return to the people and places of your past mindfully -- not for the sake of the past, but to touch the richness of the present. These people and places continue, as do our relationships with them. What remains raw can heal, and what was marvelous then can evolve now. Graduation is neither an indelible end nor a totally fresh beginning: it is a turning point inextricably linked with what came before, and followed, and is yet to come.