I got a my college alumni in the mail yesterday. Usually, this publication does not take me to emotions beyond mild curiosity - and even then I'm more interested in the writers, the design, and the attitude than what the articles or the lives of unmemorable or unknown classmates might be like.
But this time something was different. For many little reasons impossible to untangle from each other or to put in sequence, I felt something deeper when I saw this issue on my kitchen table. It wasn't nostalgia, but it was related. It was fondness and appreciation, and cosmic gratitute. I felt so happy to have made the friends I did at college, to have had the experiences I had, and to have learned the life and other lessons - ecstatic, trying, and painful - that I have tried not to forget entirely.
To most people my magazine revelations must seem like old hat, but I had honestly never felt this way before. I can be immature when it comes to things that are hard for me, and college was one of the hardest things for me that there was. I liked to dismiss the whole experience as a wash-out, when in fact all evidence points to the contrary! I'm only seeing this now.
What caused this pang of sense? Was it the glacial settling in of big life changes, or having a meaningful job, or all the moving around I've done that's now stopped for some time?
When I was mulling this over this morning, the symbol that kept coming to mind was my 2004 classmate, Willie Mays (he got an honorary degree). When I walked right by him after the big ceremony, I wanted to go shake his hand and tell him how much I admired him, but I didn't. I used to think of this moment as a symbol of opportunities lost, but I don't look at it so tragically anymore. In fact, I just feel happy I got to walk by him, and that I got to see him throw his graduation cap to the cheering crowd after he got his diploma and then walked back to his seat next to the artists and economists and scientists. I am happy that my family got to see him, and that everybody there got to see him. Seeing Willie Mays, like seeing Bill Clinton and Tobias Wolf and Samantha Power and Wilco and Lucinda Williams and Peter Davis, all in a warm crowd, was one of the best parts of college for me, and that I could ever think college was a total disaster before just goes to show how depressed I was. I will always feel differently - and a little better, whenever I get my magazine, or when I think of my past.