We came back for our reunion, some of us eagerly and others skeptically. Twenty-five years after graduating from Harvard (nearly 30 from arriving) we returned to the nest of our adult years. We superimposed layers of vivid recall from crucial stages of our development on the physicality of the present: brick walls with ivy; columned library towers; Memorial Hall fancified into something akin to Hogwarts. And add to that the people we were and have become.
We can’t read each others’ minds, at least I think not, but if we could I think a lot of us would have arrived at the Yard saying let’s just see how this goes. As in: my friends are great but what if everyone else is an asshole? Or judgey? Or a master of the universe when I’m not; or unwrinkled when I’m not; or… My hair has left my head; too much hair is on my chin; or my chin has doubled, as has my waistline. Etc, etc.
We seem to have pleasantly surprised ourselves by growing into the people we hoped to be in generosity of spirit, whether or not we feel the same way about our bank accounts, spouses/children/lack thereof, or jobs and additional diplomas. I personally can tick off a long line of regrets, not having children chief among them, mitigated by my feeling (after a midlife troth) that it’s not too late to grow and try for new things. When (not if) I try and fail, my friends will be there for and with me.
While I was on campus I saw some graduates from the class of 2015 who I taught three years ago while on a fellowship at the Institute of Politics. They were sitting as part of a circle on the lawn in front of Adams A-entry, having a bittersweet farewell to being kicked out of university housing. (It happens rather abruptly.) I reassured them that everything would be okay in a kind of awkward, likely patronizing, 25th reunion-y way. But what I should have said is: keep your friends close. Befriend those you didn’t know. The journey through life is the building of an extended family, and you might be surprised who you are related to. Grow in fondness, and journey well.