Blink, and you might miss it. Starting today, GC alumni are trickling their way back onto campus for Homecoming Weekend, where they will wander through buildings, talk to friends and reflect on all that has changed since their time here.For some current students, this weekend might just mean there are a few more oldsters around (and hopefully the Rott pulls out all the stops). Yet I can’t help but wonder what this weekend means for those returning. How does one decide that it’s time to come back to a former home? When is it too soon? When is it too late?
The places we once called home represent versions of ourselves left behind. People who we once were: good, bad and ugly. And college is, for better or for worse, considered to be the short period of life in which we define ourselves. It is THE time of our lives. We foster friendships, make memories and hone skills that will serve us a lifetime.
But what if you were lost in college? What if, 50 years later, you are still lost?
We are meant to create a roadmap for our lives, starting as early as elementary school. We choose a career, usually ambiguous and ambitious, (doctor, lawyer, president), and then we proudly announce our plan to our parents, teachers and friends.
But very few of us follow the roadmap we choose in fourth grade. Most of us turn the map upside down and take a series of shortcuts that lead us to a new destination entirely. And I am sure that nobody knows this better than the alumni visiting campus this weekend.
So, do dare we ask them, “In what ways did you veer off course?” or, “How have you stumbled your way through the dark?” or “What is it about who you’ve become that would disappoint your past self?”
Do we dare ask them how they’ve failed? How they’ve come up short? Who they’ve let down?
Do we dare ask them for the truth?
As people, we spend much of our time trying to prove to enemies, friends, lovers and strangers that we are good enough. That we are GOOD. And so we come back to our alma mater to see how it has changed and we hope that our short time spent here mattered.
We hope that we matter.
I don’t know many of the faces who will return to campus this weekend. I don’t know many of the faces I pass every day on my way to class. There are people who have no idea who I am, and there are people who simply don’t care about me.
And I’m starting to understand that it is okay. It is okay to be anonymous. It is okay if you haven’t achieved greatness. It is okay if you come to your 50th college reunion with no news to report other than that you have found your way through life.
So to current students – focus on the people you are surrounded by. You won’t remember what you said in your Moodle discussion post, but you will remember laughing with your friends at dinner.
And to alumni – these next few days aren’t just about what you’ve accomplished, they’re also about the friends you made and the person you’ve become. And if you talk to any students this weekend, encourage them to put away the roadmap and try the scenic route instead.