Last weekend, my college hosted a reunion weekend. I acted as a tour guide for all of the alumni and alumnae who came back to school for a weekend of activities. In case you were wondering about the difference between alumnae and alumni, I found it on the internet: alumni is the plural of alumnus (a male graduate); alumnae is the plural of alumna (a female graduate).
As I met a bunch of alumnae (because I go to a historically all-female school that eventually went co-ed), I couldn’t help but think that some seemed so much happier than others. Much more accomplished. As if their lives blossomed like flowers after graduation, while others just withered away.
Because I am a self-proclaimed film buff, I was reminded of a scene from “Annie Hall” in which Woody Allen’s sixth-grade classmates stand up and reveal their futures.
“I used to be a heroin addict; now I’m a methadone addict,” one student says.
While the fate of the women I met did not seem that severe, some clearly had accomplished more in their tenure out of college. Some became managers or high-ranking officials. Others balanced work with social endeavors to become well-rounded community activists. Others had started families and campaigned the importance of college to their children as they paraded through their old dorm buildings and classrooms. Others have cats.
I actually did meet a few alumnae who told me about their cats. While I love cats and thought this was a cute gesture, it made me think, “Where will I be in 20 years?”
Will I have a cat? Or will I actually have accomplished something worthwhile? Accomplished any lifelong dreams or desires? Finally appeared on television?
For that matter, where will my friends and peers be? Will I feel the compulsive need to compete and one-up my former classmates at reunions like I saw these women do?
“I have two boys in college.”
“Oh,” a snide voice responded, “Well, I have three in college. They all go to Columbia. You know. The Ivy League school.”
Yes, I had forgotten that Columbia was an Ivy League school. Thanks for the reminder!
I could never be this competitive.
Or could I? I already troll social media, seeing friends from high school post pictures and statuses that I do feel obligated to “like.” Then, I plan something much wittier or fun-sounding to post within the next hour.
So maybe we humans are, by nature, meant to compete. Is it in our blood, our DNA, our genes? For whatever reason, the reunion was as joyful as it was cutthroat. Or maybe it was joyful because it was cutthroat? I leave you with this Jarod Kintz quote:
“What does it mean to be the best? It means you have to be better than the number two guy. But what gratification is there in that? He’s a loser—that’s why he’s number two.”