Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Run River Run

Another of our semi-annual college reunions was held last weekend. It was good to mingle with my "tribe" once again on what for us has become sacred ground—our beautiful University of Charleston campus across from the West Virginia State Capitol. As always, I left with my throat sore from talking so much and my cheeks sore from laughing so much. It was wonderful!

I’m not sure if other schools’ alumni reunions are as much fun as our reunions seem to be. Maybe our school was just the right size to promote close social bonds during our student days, which have carried forward to today (primarily thanks to Facebook virtually reconnecting us again). Plus, our era in college was prior to the video game boxes, the Internet, and hundred-some channel cable TV that often keeps current college students cloistered in their dorm rooms.

Those years from 18-22 were so formative to the adult life that I have led! I learned a lot from the professors there, but I also learned a lot from my peers. Many of them came from lands that were foreign to me—not just other countries, but also exotic locations such as New Joisey and Lon Gisland.

The friendships I formed there are stronger than any others. When we get together again, the conversations are effortless, the laughter is hearty, and the hugs are about genuinely connecting—not "hooking up" (or whatever they are calling it these days).

Indeed, I am of the opinion that one of the reasons why we enjoy these reunions so much is that the "dating and mating" factor that was so important to us when we were 18-22 is less important today. We can appreciate each other so much more when we are not second guessing the other person's motives. A hug becomes a warm greeting to an old friend, not an invitation for spending the night together. We are truly friends!

Also, watching others hug is not a cause for rumors or jealousy, as it might have been during the days of campus society soap operas. I'm not envious of the female attention another male might get. We are all adults now, and as such we probably get along even better than we did as youngsters.

Even if we didn't know each other well because we ran in different circles when we were students, we are glad to see each other now. It is so much easier to strike up a conversation with someone we may not have even known. Indeed, sharing stories from the old days is a favorite topic. Just by being there it means that we have jointly survived the last 30-some years of adulthood—unfortunately, some of our colleagues didn't make it this far.

None of us look exactly like we did in our prime, but that doesn't matter. No one cares if you have put on weight or lost hair (or both, as I have). When we look at each other now, we also see ourselves as we looked back then. This unique "familiarity filter" is something we can't do with most other people, and it is refreshing and stimulating—it makes us all feel young again.

What one has accomplished since graduation is not important at these events. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, nor whether you are still married to your college sweetheart or divorced multiple times—we are just glad to see you again, along with our other compatriots, all back on that sacred ground again.

If you get the chance to attend your school’s reunion, I’d encourage you to go and have a good time. If you attended UC (regardless of whether you graduated or not), I hope you will join us for UC Homecoming the first weekend in October. I think everyone who has attended an alumni reunion event has had a wonderful time. Although the football game will be over in what was formerly known as Laidley Field, there will be alumni events on the UC campus as well. I am sure many of us will want to walk on our gorgeous riverbank while we are there, re-living our memories of that sacred ground. As you gaze upon the Kanawha River, you might even recall a Loggins & Messina hit from the mid-'70s, whose chorus probably means even more to us now than it did then:

And it goes on and on,
Watching the river run,
Further and further from things that we've done,
Leaving them one by one,
And we have just begun,
Watching the river run,
Listening and learning and yearning,
Run river run!

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