Celebrating Five Years (and Counting)

About five years ago this day I graduated from my alma mater. In hindsight, the graduation really felt more like a new beginning (as the term “commencement” aptly suggests) because I was, well, pretty much confused as to what was up next. I was so scared by it that I even wrote a commencement speech on it (read: “I am graduating but I am afraid that I failed so much already and that I might fail again”). In another hindsight, though, I really didn’t need to stress over it that much because it turns out that that’s a question I am pretty much going to have to live with for the rest of my life. Fast forward five years – and I find myself back in Northfield, MN where it all happened. The only difference is that this time I am wearing a name tag that says “5th Year Reunion!”

When I first signed up to go to my first reunion ever, I had mixed feelings about it. Do I have to go? Is it worth my time and money? Who else is coming? Am I going to be pressured to give money to the college? But then again, I think my greatest fear came from my inability to formulate a quick and satisfactory answer to the question: “So, Wookie, what have you done accomplished in the past five years of your life?” As much as I liked about myself, I knew I would want others to walk away from our conversation, inspired by and impressed with what I seem to have done to positively impact the lives of many since my departure from college. Having fought against the fear long and hard, I never actually came to formulate a good answer but decided that I had no time and, more importantly, remembered that I had already paid my fees to go to the reunion. So I went.

The reunion was fun. More than I had expected. And far less scary (thank God). Here’s what I learned from attending my 5th year reunion:

Friends are still friends after college (for the most part).
Duh – say you? Hang in there, though, because I am careful  to use the term “friends” for a reason. There is something about friends that we don’t seem to find among, say, our colleagues or partners. I want to say that it’s because friends accept you for who you are without trying to change or control you in any way (again, for the most part). It’s just that good to be around friends.

Tears and laughter can co-exist indeed.
During the reunion was a memorial service for a classmate who passed away recently. As her friends stepped forward to share about the memories they shared with her, there were tears in the eyes and voices of those who spoke and also those who listened. The tears were then followed by smiles and laughter as the same friends turned to one another to share about how blessed they were to have gotten to spend time with her. At the intersection of such tears and laughter, I realized that this may actually be a pretty accurate depiction of life as a whole. That those sad and happy moments may always co-exist and that one would do well to learn to live in moments of such seemingly chronic state of emotional chaos.

We continue to grow, learn, and change.
Those who came out to the reunion came in all shapes and sizes. And I don’t mean this just in the most plain physical sense. Among the 200 or so of us from the Class of 2011 were Ph.D. holders, graduate students, CEOs, government employees, academics, and investment bankers, just to name a few. While the sizes of our paychecks and the stress levels of our work schedules probably varied by much, the one common ground we all shared was that growth, learning, and changes had been all part of our lives in the past five years and are now so as we look to the beginning of another year ahead. The four years we spent together in college did not conclude our learning but instead those years put us on a path towards appreciation and enjoyment of life-long learning.

So, there came and went my 5th year union. So much to do, so many people to catch up with, so many stories to hear and share, and yet not enough time for any. But then again, life barely leaves enough time for anything anyway (or at least we seem to think). Oh well, time to journey on.

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