(True, but really nothing to do with today's blog entry.)
As most of you know, I've been spending a fair amount of time over the past year helping prepare for my 25th college reunion. My former roommate, Maria, and I are organizing our class Community Service Project, which this year will consist of the first annual (we hope) Princeton University Reunion Run. In case you want to learn more about it, you can check out our (still rudimentary) website at www.purr85.org. It's been a ton of work since last summer, but we are Very Optimistic about the project's success, and are anticipating a great Memorial Day Weekend down in Princeton, NJ.
But, that's another story ... sort of.
(More of the long build-up....) When we started organizing the Community Service Project ("CSP"), Maria and I had some lofty goals for fundraising. And, in the middle of ascertaining how exactly we would accomplish those lofty goals, our Class Survey and details about our 25th Reunion Yearbook came across our desks. We learned that the Yearbook had a significant budget that we thought would be better spent on the CSP beneficiaries -- this year, Princeton Young Achievers and the Friends of the World Food Program. Our thoughts were that a collection of pictures and anecdotes for each member of our class just did not justify the same amount that we could use to fund either a Year-long salary for a curriculum coordinator or the purchase of 10 stoves for community-centered stoves in a Kenyan village.
Now that I have the Yearbook in hand -- they were mailed so that each and every class member would receive one (whether or not he/she is attending reunions) prior to the Big Weekend -- I am reconsidering my earlier rejection of the whole idea. While I still don't agree on the cost of the paperback volume -- it does have a dash of color, nice glossy paper, and a fabulous Tag Cloud on the back cover -- it is compelling reading and provided me (and I'm sure hundreds of others) a very entertaining evening as I perused the pages.
I thought I'd share some of the highlights with Chasing Shade readers.
1. Best "Life In Six," or 6-word autobiographies, all of which made me think "Why Didn't I Think Of That?" :
"I have forgiven my younger self." (This from an ENT doctor:) "Will treat earwax, boogers for cash." "Raising a teenage daughter. Shoot me." "Ordinary is harder than it looks."
My own extremely boring Life In Six is ...."Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Friend, Myself." I know; "don't give up my day job."
2. Amazingly, I consider myself good friends with two men who had the longest (AI) and shortest (CM) entries. Read both, and enjoyed both.
3. Only one of my former roommates actually wrote an entry (JF), but the majority did include updated photos and updated information on husband/job/children. I did not include a written entry, but included my MCM photo (not coincidentally my Facebook profile photo) for posterity.
4. I was constantly surprised every time I turned a page and encountered a bald man. Not surprisingly, there are no photos of bald women.
5. Very surprised to receive a shout-out from a classmate (CW) who remembered sitting next to me in Econ. 102 (I should have stopped there, before taking accounting, my biggest academic mistake EVER), and ... well, I'll quote her: "Well, by far the best thing that happened to ME, just months shy of his Princeton graduation, was meeting my husband .... I remember sitting in McCosh 10 next to Catherine Patrick on the first day of Econ 102, seeing [him] walk in late in his grey sweats after a morning crew practice, and saying, "If I could only meet that guy, I know we'd be compatible." 25 years later, they are still together! Cool; not sure I can take complete credit, though.
6. Highlights -- There were 4 entries that I won't soon forget, for various reasons. In no particular order they were:
a. Giovanni -- Always an Italian lothario, Giovanni loved us at PU, and especially loved Jill and Maria. I never knew what his Italian roots were, but apparently his family owned wine vineyards in Italy which he now manages. He submitted an entry of several paragraphs written on his blackberry from a dentist's chair in Italy. Still the same old Giovanni after all these years!
b. Matthew -- Wrote his entry as his best friend lay dying in a Princeton hospital..... "it seems more fitting to simply state where I am at this moment. Perhaps all the steps I took to getting here are the fabric of where I am..... While I bear the pain of my friend's death, I also feel so grateful to have four loving and wonderful children...." I'm grateful to know Matthew.
c. Leslie -- Wow. Leslie (whom I did not know at PU) submitted a photo of her with her husband "at our hunt in the Tyrolian Alps," which caption could only be outdone by the dead caribou in the grass before them. Leslie's photo was only to be outdone by her story, though...."As I write this we are all in Singapore for a few days en route to Thailand. Thailand is where the plot thickens. How Thailand changed my life, my outlook, my patience and my needs. .... December 26, 2004 a huge wave rocked our world, shattering our innocence and the lives of many around us but leaving ours amazingly intact. I briefly lost my husband and son and thought my daughter would never function normally again. Both husband and son survived in varying states of repair and my daughter became a pillar of strength. The tsunami managed to do what no self-help, yoga or new age therapy can manage. It put our lives in perspective in no time and at no cost (theoretically speaking). Highly effective, though I wouldn't wish it upon anyone." Wow.
d. David -- I knew who David was, but that's it, while at PU. His Life in Six is "My glass is always half full." He recounts his two marriages (one before a rabbi, and one before a California judge) to his partner, Dan. He tells of his two boys, and their travels, noting "Our unique 'family constellation (as my ex-wife likes to refer to us) continues to yield terrific opportunities for" his boys. I especially loved David's humor and perspective on his (our collective) aging. "Since 47 is like 62 in 'gay years', I have recently taken some drastic action to stave off the inevitable. First, I started working out with a trainer who immediately suggested some fairly radical changes to my diet with his mantra 'salt is the enemy.' Apparently taste is as well. I believe it was Kate Moss who said 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.' True perhaps, but if I have any more skinless chicken breasts with brown rice, I will be ill. You can do your part by telling me how great I look when you see me at Reunions. D. and I bought a vacation home in Palm Springs, where the median age is somewhere between 55 and death. Nothing makes you feel young like sitting in a restaurant next to a table of men hooked up to oxygen and being assisted by their caregivers." LOL! I want to meet David Kaplan again and tell him to write a book, that I will buy!
e. The Rest --- There were the inevitable highlights you would expect from such a yearbook, such as ... "my first neuroscience post-doc," and "a broken pelvis, from playing polo." Lots of pictures from faraway places. One picture with a caption I still don't understand ("Tubilustrum, as Christ from China, Franco-Brazilian Movie Production" ????).
What surprised me the most, though, was the extremely low-key and genuinely modest tone that the yearbook entries took, even from utterly undeniably successful classmates. There was some brutal honesty, from those switching careers and from those who lost jobs in the recession, and near unanimous cheering of family and children. There were many, many classmates who wrote of the loss of their parents, and one who wrote emotionally about surviving the sudden loss of her husband.
So, just when you think you have become completely Jaded in all things college-related, or all things Princeton-related, something like this Yearbook happens to pull you out of your complacency. It makes you realize that life is hard work, that success comes from hard work, and that attending college together -- any college -- creates a bond that lasts a lifetime.
p.s. I will appreciate Jil and Sarah not saying "I Told You So" .....
p.p.s. I almost forgot ... the answer to the $64K Question: No updated photo or information about husband, and children. Only an address: "The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500-0002." Speaks for itself, don't you think?