Yesterday almost came and went without realizing the personal historical importance of the date, then suddenly, with the sinking feeling one gets when they realized they missed an important meeting, it dawned on me why May 17 was so familiar; it was the day I graduated from college.
If this had been any prior year, I would have smiled and fondly remembered those days on the campus of Mary Washington College where my biggest worries were whether the DJ hired for the Halloween dance was any good, if school received my loan check, or if Political Science was the wisest major move. However, this year marks a major milestone for those who marched in mortar boards with me; 10 years since our lives as college co-eds ended. I remember sitting around with friends in those frenzied last weeks before graduation; busy preparing for finals, job interviews, apartments, grad ball and our farewells. Through all the insanity, we still made time for each other, fully knowing that life would change dramatically outside of our campus cocoon. With pitchers of margaritas to comfort us, we would talk about our future, our dreams, and our challenges ahead and would joke about returning to school for reunions and where we would be in 10 years.
These major milestones are a time to celebrate, reflect and remember those nights we declared where we would be when the milestone arrived. Unfortunately, life hardly ever goes as planned, and it is hard to be immune to the feelings of sadness, guilt, anger and regret inherent with plans going astray. I have seen friends make unwise decisions in the wake of these major milestones, so desperate to adhere to their original plans they alter the course their life was taking them; marrying the person of the moment just because they dreamed of getting married by a certain age, having children too soon for their marriage because they wanted to have their first by 30, going for an unnecessary degree or lying about their achievements to cover that life took them in another direction. We are all guilty of this; focusing on what hasn’t been done rather then celebrating all that has.
Admittedly, I have been feeling nauseous at the thought of attending my reunion in two weeks. Life is good, but it is not anything like those plans I made long ago. While some dream of getting married and having children, I openly spoke about marriage being the equivalent of modern day slavery and the end of a woman’s life. Well… I have been happily married now for nearly 6 years after learning that with the right choice in a partner I could be married and still be me. This is a little embarrassing, given who and where I was 10 years ago. Other things that did not adhere to my plans were leaving DC to move to the Midwest, climbing the corporate ladder rather then running for President, gaining wrinkles and weight, and losing contact with friends I spent every waking moment with for years.
A friend recently said something very wise; we all change, nothing goes the way it is planned and if you aren’t careful, life will pass you by as you wait for things to be perfect. Lately, as I found myself making every excuse in the book to miss the walk down campus and memory lane, his words helped me remember to be happy with who I am, even if it was not who I was supposed to be. A reunion is time to reconnect and remember days gone by. It is a time to deal with loss; those friends gone too soon to tragic accidents and diseases. I will attend the reunion to remember them and celebrate life, even if it is a little different then originally planned.