Monday, January 28, 2013

Old Friends, Memories and Beautiful Art: Part 1

Photo Credit futureperfect
I had the best weekend! On Saturday morning, I met one of my college suite mates at a local hole in the wall that is well known for its huge, old fashioned breakfasts. For those two hours, I was transported back in time to when life was much less complicated and the world was our oyster. 

I met Marie 30 years ago this next August, when we were both moving in to our dorm. We had different roommates but I felt a kindred spirit with her that grew that year as we were all trying to find our ways, during our first taste of real independence. Over the next four years, we had several classes together and I admired her brilliance in accounting classes, a subject which often exasperated me. Little did I know then, Marie would go on to make accounting her career while, at the time, I had no clue what I wanted to do in the real world.

We saw each other a few times during our first jobs after college. She was working for an accounting firm that was responsible for the audit in which my company was engaged. And then many years passed  before we met again. I thought of her often over the years as I moved from state to state, finally landing on the West Coast. It wasn't until our 20th class reunion, after I had moved back to the East Coast, that I recognized Marie, standing at a distance, with a group of our suite mates. At that point in my life, I was still reeling from a contentious divorce that left me empty and unsure of myself.    

I attended the first day of the reunion with a date, whom I had decided was not the guy for me, due to his very apparent issues with alcohol. As I reacquainted myself with my old friends, I felt awkward and lonely. I really didn't know what to say, as I still felt that my personal life had been somewhat of a failure (it would be a few more years before I realized that wasn't the case) and my confidence was low. Everyone else seemed happily married with families, jobs and activities that they loved. Moreover, they had maintained close relationships with their college friends and I had not. I told myself that was due to the relationship chaos that I had experienced over the past twenty years but I resolved to change that.

When I saw Marie that day, six years ago, it was as if we had just left college the day before. She was warm, friendly, witty and looked, to me, as if she hadn't changed a bit. Her ease with the reunion situation and her infectious smile drew me right into the conversation and I began to enjoy the reunion. We discovered that we only lived a few miles from each other and, trading email addresses, we vowed to get together soon.

Photo Credit: UVA Alumni Association
Five years went by and our twenty fifth reunion rolled around. By that time, I had gotten married and Marie's oldest child had just finished her junior year of high school. I looked forward to the reunion and couldn't wait to reconnect with not only my old suite mates, but also friends from the pep band. My experience at our twenty fifth reunion was completely different than at the twentieth. I felt happy, confident and excited about my life. When Marie and I connected again, she had, once again, the warm, witty, infectious personality that had comforted me during my time of insecurity some years before. We laughed at the fact that we still hadn't gotten together, took some pictures and vowed to get together soon.

That "soon" took seven months, but we did it! For over two hours, we shared not only a great breakfast but also memories, experiences, laughs and a connection that I hope we can continue. Hopefully, it won't take another five years to get together again but if it does, that's OK for I am definitely "better" for that two hour conversation with an old friend.

Photo Credit: