Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bright College Years

Two weeks ago, I celebrated the 10th anniversary of graduating from college by attending my reunion in good ol' still-crime-stricken New Haven. It was, in a word, surreal.

Compared to the 5th year reunion, this weekend was way more chill. There were some similarities -- mediocre food, weird/amazing dance parties (see above photo), pretty low-shelf booze considering how much we all spent on tuition (not to mention spent to attend the damn reunion -- $225!). You see some friends you've stayed in touch with, a few that you haven't and are genuinely delighted to reconnect with even though because of Facebook you know about their new job/spouse/baby/book/sexual orientation. And then there are tons of randos -- folks you literally haven't thought about for ten years and those you never met at college. In other words, complete fucking strangers. But that's okay, that's what the open bar is for.

But after only five years out, reunion felt more cutthroat; many of my peers were in law school or med school, or in the throes of applying to one or the other. We all looked relatively the same. Few had married and there was maybe one baby. We were all basically the same amount of mature at 27 that we were at 22. And instead of just being pleasantly filled with nostalgia, I remember actively longing to still be in college instead of working and paying bills and dealing with shitty Craigslist roommates.

Not so this time around -- now we're in our thirties. Lots of my classmates have "settled down," so to speak. A few are even on their second marriages. Instead of bragging about careers, we have funny stories of failure to share that we all can relate to. Because despite our expensive degrees, we fucked up as much as any other 20-somethings and now we can admit it and have a good laugh.

I appreciated the more mellow vibe. And instead of apologizing/justifying my career choice, like I felt I had to do at the last reunion (one person literally said, "wow, that's so brave!" when I said I was getting my MFA in poetry), I fully owned up to the fact that I am a poet. And instead of snickering, people seemed supportive and curious. Despite not having a ring on my finger or a pregnant belly (babies were THE must-have accessory of this reunion), I felt okay about my life.    

Of course, no Yale reunion would be complete without a ton of a cappella singing. Whiffenpoofs ranging from age 27 to 90 performed, and my senior women's group sang a few songs as well, despite the alumni association's utter inability to provide us with any concert logistics. 

And speaking of singing, I'm proud to say that I was able to refrain from drunkenly wailing Adele's "Someone Like You" to my college sweetheart, who was there with his wife. 

 College boyfriend on the left; the guy on the right is my current roommate. Picture taken Sept. '99. I still have those pajama pants.

I also finally learned the words to our school song, "Bright College Years," and have to admit, they resonate a lot more now.

Bright college years with pleasure rife
The shortest, gladdest years of life
How swiftly are ye gliding by

Oh, why doth time so quickly fly?
The seasons come, the seasons go
The earth is green or white with snow
But time and change cannot avail

To break the friendships formed at Yale.

In after years when troubles rise
To cloud the blue of sunny skies
How bright will seem through memory's haze
Those happy, golden bygone days.
Oh let us strive that ever we  
May let these words our watch-cry be,
Where'er upon life's sea we sail:
For God, for country, and for Yale!

When you are a Yale student and everything is coming up roses/the future seems blindingly bright/you feel invincible, it's hard to believe troubles will ever cloud your skies. But it's true that when that happens, there are friends from your bright college years that will stand by you and remind you that things could always be worse. For instance, you could have gone to Harvard.

At Yale, we sometimes drink alcohol out of giant trophy cups.