Everyone on earth yearns to connect with someone, to find meaning in the moment and value beyond the day-to-day. Unless you’re that dude wearing yellow crocs and a vacant stare trolling up and down the street. If that’s the case and all you want is a Butterfinger and a ride on your pet unicorn so you can time travel through a space portal and enter the third dimension? I’m not talking to you, so feel free to jump the cracks in the sidewalk all the way to crazy and ignore this post.
Charlie Sheen. Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from a nicely padded, white cell. Image via celebrityhealthcare24.com
Assuming you’re sane, curious, and reasonably interested in what life’s all about, the question becomes a little more relevant.
Twenty-four years ago, I fluttered off to college wearing a Laura Ashley jumpsuit and gravity-defying bangs. Physical evidence proves that I came of age in an era of hideous fashion. So what if I longed for a pair of blue polka-dotted J. Crew shorts four times the size of my waist, a button-down shirt straight from my dad’s closet, shoulder pads, and a fake tan? Don’t judge me. It was a sign of the times.
Dear Stacie, Laura Ingalls Wilder wants her housecoat back.
A more important marker of that period though, was the ease with which I maneuvered life. The only things I worried about then were grades and my checking account, because bottoming out in either meant an unwanted call from Mom. As long as I maintained a healthy balance, I was free to test my fake I.D. at every bar in town, sleep through an 8:00 a.m. Victorian Poetry class the next day, head to Bagel Deli for a late lunch, and start the cycle anew. I didn’t appreciate the value of doing absolutely anything I wanted every single day without encumbrances or constraints, because it was the only language I knew how to speak.
Why go to class when you can pass out fully clothed with your besties instead?
Fast forward two decades plus, and things look a lot different. My world is now colored in deeper hues, painted from a time worn palette, and buffered by the tiny yet significant details relevant to growing up. Things don’t look as simple as they did back then, but to compare a black and white charcoal drawing to an oil-on-canvas piece created in the dark with a palette knife doesn’t make any sense. They aren’t even close to the same thing.
Deep thoughts at our twenty-year reunion as we debate the long-term effects of botox, chemical peels, and whether or not hormone injections from baby giraffes is an ethical way to battle sagging skin.
What I failed to understand in my haze of studying, partying, and not enough sleep, was that college was never meant to be a destination, just a rest stop off the side of the road to fuel up with the necessary caffeine and carbs to make it to whatever comes next. If I lived in a bubble back then, today I exist in the shadow of the sun, often rising and sometimes fading, but always growing under the heat of filtered light tinged in infinitely more interesting shades.
Can true enlightenment really be found at the bottom of a champagne bottle? My twenty-one year-old self says “Hell yes!”
This past weekend, I took a step back in time to my twenty-year college reunion, just to check out the view. What I found once I’d settled in and looked around, was that while the campus landscape has changed a little over the years, the structure is the same. Like a stalactite. Or the ocean. Like me. Or you.
So the question remains, if you can’t really go home again, can you at least get close enough to knock on the door? And if life’s about the journey, what do you want to find when you get to the other side?
What would you do if you found this on the other side of the door?
Twenty Year College Reunion Observation and Etiquette Guide
1. We may be older and wiser, but we still make stupid mistakes.
2. Although modern medicine has advanced dramatically since 1988, hair plugs have not. So don’t go there. Ever. It will never be an attractive alternative to a shiny dome.
3. If you’ve come back to college looking for the One Who Got Away, reconsider. The person you were then and the one you’ve become today share an important trait. You’re both the product of free will. Back then, you each made conscious decisions that put you on different paths, so keep that ring on your finger and your mouth shut.
4. Party pics trump viral pics.
5. Skip the room temperature, keg-flavored Keystone Light in favor of a Maker’s over ice. Corporate domination, siphoning unnoticed cash from the family checking account, or both have earned you the golden ticket to a sweet buzz.
6. Memories are as clear or fuzzy as the glasses you see them through.
7. You aren’t a better dancer at 2:00 a.m. and you never were.
8. If you refuse to listen to #3, then please consider wearing Spanx. There’s no better deterrent to what will become a regrettable decision than the modern-day equivalent of scuba-inspired latex lingerie.
9. Frat house stalking is a lot more rewarding than Facebook stalking. Not that I’d know.
10. Hand sanitizer is now more important than the buddy system when it comes to going to the bathroom at any local bar.
11. Don’t be afraid to replace what you’ve lost in elasticity with filler. A little goes a long way.
12. Grab-a-dates trump Match.com.
13. Today’s college kids don’t look younger than we did; their apparent toehold on the fountain of youth is just the blurry aftermath of your Lasik eye surgery wearing off.
14. If you’ve ignored items 3 and 7, and you’re still trolling Facebook for the One Who Got Away, don’t go to your college reunion and fire up to Journey’s Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ unless you’ve got a raging case of halitosis. And adult back acne. And a lazy eye.
15. Mystery trumps technology.
16. Don’t do shots with a kid who was born the year you graduated from college, in fact, don’t do anything with a kid who was born the year you graduated from college.
17. Female hormones rage with as much intensity at 42 as they did at 22…they’re just a lot more unpredictable.
18. Remember that Sangria you drank from the Delt’s bathtub at your first frat party freshman year? No amount of recreational Prozac can overcome the recurring visual of what was really floating at the top of that cup.
19. And if you refuse to listen to items 3, 7, and 14? Understand that the grass isn’t any greener on the other side of the space-time continuum-inspired fence. It just looks that way because there’s no mortgage, demanding boss, and needy kids to kill the color. Weeds tend to suddenly appear where you least expect them though, so do yourself a favor and tend your own garden instead of trying to plant a new one.
20. Your college friends are your besties for life, and they’ll always have your back, even when you’re sweating through your shirt.
Photo Gallery, ‘Cause Sorority Chics Love Looking at Pictures of Themselves
Activewear 1992 (notice the “dad” shorts, XXL t-shirts on the girls and half-shirts on the token dudes).
Activewear today (this picture was taken sans make-up after a four-hour Tough Mudder/Crossfit/P90X stroll through campus).