Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Here's a Toast

This week will mark thirty-five years since I graduated from college.

I know.

It doesn’t seem that long ago, really. I remember the day pretty clearly. Marching down Locust Walk with a horde of other similarly berobed about-to-be-alumni along with a pile of my friends (including one from the year behind us who borrowed his roommate’s gown and marched with us since his roommate couldn’t attend). My parents came and sat in the audience down at Franklin Field. It was a fairly warm day and they put bottles of water under the seats, though that might have also been a general nod to the hungover in the crowd. The graduation speaker was a Congresswoman from Colorado who had run for president not long before, without success. I couldn’t tell whether she was enthusiastic or drunk while she was giving her speech and to be honest it didn’t really matter. It was a perfectly fine speech and then we were out into the world, graduates looking for a hot meal.

I lived off campus for a year after that, figuring out what to do with my life. I don’t know if I ever did. Mostly I just bobbed from one thing to the next until suddenly I’m in my late 50s with a career and a family and a house in the midwest, and it’s been pretty good I have to say. Maybe having a plan isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I would have forgotten about this anniversary entirely except that Penn places a great deal of emphasis on alumni as we are a significant source of revenue for them. Not me personally, of course. I’ve seen their finances – I need it more than they do. But in general. As part of this emphasis we have Class Officers who seem to make a point of tracking people down now and then to remind us about the halcyon days of our youth down at the old alma mater.

So I’ve been getting emails from them for weeks now about whether I will be attending the festivities on Friday (no, it’s our finals week too) or making donations (also no, see above). This time around, though, they’ve set up a system where we can all fill out some forms online and create our own Personal Page on the Class Web Site.

I find that idea a bit odd.

For one thing, most of the people I want to keep up with I either already keep up with or they were from different classes. Or both. Could be both! In an age of social media, losing track of people is a choice. Do I want to find everyone else? Maybe. Do I want others to find me? Maybe, but less so. Most of the people I don’t keep track of were good folks who just drifted in other directions – it’s not like we left on bad terms – but after a while you just accept that and move on.

For another thing, I can’t really conceive of what I would put on such a page. I went to college with people who had plans. They were going to be CEOs, doctors, lawyers, movers and shakers. The alumni magazine follows me everywhere I go – seriously, their circulation department needs to be recruited en masse into the FBI, though their billing department should probably be let go since I have never once given them any money – and sometimes I will check the back pages for the alumni notes to see if anyone I know is in them. Sometimes there are! And they are up to Big Things! And good for them, really. But I have my own life and it is mine and I like it but most of the things I like about it I wouldn’t put in the alumni notes.

I have not made my page. I suspect it will not happen. Thus ever it goes.

So to the Class of ’88, I wish you well from afar. Drink a highball at nightfall, be good fellows while you may.


LucyInDisguise said...

After a couple of days of solemn consideration, I have decided that a virtual "clink" is in order, and, so, here it is:*


And, this observation:
"In an age of social media, losing track of people is a choice. Do I want to find everyone else?" Probably Not. With damn few exceptions, most of those I expended the effort to find turned out to be not worth the trouble.

"Do I want others to find me?" Absolutely not. I moved out here to No Damn Place, NV, for a reason. If you're lookin' for me, try Saskatchewan.



* Any physical resemblance between me and that guy in the video is purely coincidental.

David said...

And a clink back to you, good sir! Thanks! :)

I've always been pretty fortunate with the people I've met - most of them have been fine, a few have been great, not many were regrettable and those I have left far behind without much worry.

But life is liquid and once you take something or someone out of it - no matter how lovely - there just isn't a hole there anymore to put them back into. This is just one reason why reunions never much interested me, even as a historian. All our lives have moved on and filled in. There's no space there anymore.

I've kept track of a few people and I enjoy having them in my life. I've met new people (hi!) and that's been worthwhile too. And sometimes people have tracked me down, and it's usually turned out well so far. The rest, I wish them well I suppose.

Just lucky, I guess. I'll take it.

LucyInDisguise said...

I probably could have made this a little clearer: my comment was targeted at people from the past, but, more explicitly, those people who tend to actually show up at reunions. And, my experience with people who have tracked me down is, apparently, diametrically different from yours.

Just unlucky, I guess?

New business:

There exists an RTF file on my computer’s desktop which I have named ‘Life Truths’ which is a collection of words people have said, sometimes profound, that I have found remain true without regard to personal wants, preferences, biases, or points of view. (e.g.: You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy. Nightbirde*

This …

“… life is liquid and once you take something or someone out of it - no matter how lovely - there just isn't a hole there anymore to put them back into.”

… fits the definition of the purpose of that file - and so, I am taking your Life Truth and pasting it into that file. With proper attribution, of course. (If you don’t mind. And, for that matter, even if you do.)



* The quote comes at 5:05 in this video but if you haven’t seen this before, you should watch it all. It is profound - but It’s Okay:

David said...

Well, I'm flattered! Keep that with my blessing. :)

That's some good company, my quote in a document with Nightbirde's. I can see why Simon was so affected by her song and story - got kind of dusty in here as well.

I've been collecting quotes since I was in high school - things that appealed to me, things that seemed to have some resonance, things that I just liked for whatever reason. I transferred it all over to a digital file when I ran out of room in the original book. It's 89 pages long now. And now Nightbirde is in it. Thank you.

LucyInDisguise said...

Memorable quotes are something I keep apart from these. This is a special collection ...

There are some things that remain true for everyone, usually dealing with interactions between or observations about humans, regardless of who they are or what their view of life may be.

I have another .rtf file with uncounted thousands of quotes, but this one contained only seven until I added yours. Some could be considered humorous, while others are more acute. They all share one common attribute, though, that is that they remain true without regard to personal wants, preferences, biases, or points of view; true enough that (at least in my view) it's nearly impossible to construct a meaningful argument against them.

Another (unattributed) example:

A lot of great art is created by assholes and if you can’t get past that you’re going to miss out on a lot of treasures.



David said...

While I don't make that formal a separation in my quote collection - mine is more of a hodgepodge that way - I do appreciate the distinction. And I'm honored to be in the Life Truths section!

I think I've heard that (unattributed) one before ... ;)

It is good to take wisdom from wherever it may be found.

LucyInDisguise said...

After long and careful consideration, I have come to believe that it is entirely possible that that unattributed quote actually came from you; and the reason I believe that is that when I read it after posting it, my brain assigned your voice to it. In which case, and if you would like to claim it, that would give you two quotes.

When I first started setting these aside I wasn't very diligent regarding attribution - I didn't think any of them would ever see freedom outside of that file. Once I realized that I would be sharing them at some point, I went in search of the sources, mostly to no avail.

Just for fits & giggles, here's the one that started this file:

That’s what forgiveness is … It doesn’t mean letting the other person off the hook, and you don’t ever have to forget what their transgressions were or be OK with them.  Forgiveness is letting go of the emotional grip that stuff had on you.  Forgiveness is letting the other person go their way and you going yours, allowing yourself to become indifferent to whatever happens or goes on with that other person from that moment.

I have no idea where I found that. However, it helped my daughter through a rough spot and that is what matters.

Wisdom. Truth. They are dependent. I don't think one can exist without the other.


David said...

Yeah, the bit about art and assholes is mine. You commented on it at the time, actually. It's in point #7 here, and you in fact called it a "fundamental truth of the universe" in a comment there.

I don't know the source of the one on forgiveness, but it is definitely something worth remembering on a list like that. And if it helps someone you love, all the more so.

Wisdom and truth cannot exist without the other, but they are separate things.

LucyInDisguise said...

Well, that gives you two out of nine then, which puts you at 22.22% of the list. (I added one yesterday, although I'm not all that certain that it fits the definition so it may head over to the other file in a while - it's more like a meme than a quote.)

I chose the word dependent after trying out about five or six similar words. I probably should have gone with the first suggestion in the thesaurus: conditional on - as in:

Wisdom. Truth. The first is conditional on the second.

I could probably play with that for a week and still not get to what I mean ...


David said...

Well, I'm honored to have two entries on your list!

If you ever figure out how to word that to say what you want it to say, let me know - I'd love to hear it. Every shift in wording there, no matter how small, opens up new ways of thinking about it.