Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The hardest to learn was the least complicated...

I just got back from my 10 year college reunion. On paper, a silly strategy: a 4+ hour trip with an uncomfortably pregnant belly, restless toddler and exhausted husband to a school that was home to as many tragedies as triumphs over four long years. I would be with my friends Gail and Denise, and largely motivated to see Leigh/Grahamad, who lives in Boston but whose house I have never seen. (I have an urgent need to see the places that my loved ones call home, to imagine them exactly as they are when we are apart).

Fourteen years ago, I was a college freshman who had graduated from a religious private school. My "real world" experience was limited to a few warm beers, stealth trips into Manhattan, furtively smoked cigarettes and a bit of tonsil hockey. I chose Brandeis with little forethought. I knew a few older classmen, the campus was pretty and not too scary and it sounded like a school that a future lawyer would attend. That was all I really cared about -- cute boys, small surroundings, a name that invoked justice. Plus, my father believed that I would be happier at a bigger school and I was eager to prove just how little he knew me back then.

But of course, he was right, and after six months I was suffocating. I felt that I knew everyone in the small class, there was not enough fun and the boys were not as cute as I hoped. I quickly realized that I did not want to be a laywer, but a writer instead and the course options were limited. After a great weekend visit, I desperately wanted to transfer to Penn. I spoke to a camp friend who was an older Penn student and shared my plans with him. "Let me give you a piece of advice", he said, with the sage wisdom of someone who was about to graduate. "If you have good friends at college, that's all that matters. Don't leave that."

I believed him, largely because my freshman year GPA would not enable me to transfer to Penn or anywhere else. And despite the tumult that the next four years would provide for my friends and I: death, divorce, depression, drinking, eating disorders, cheating boyfriends, academic probation, near fatal illness, screaming fights...despite all of this, I graduated with an education in friendship like none other.

Miraculously, I fell into a group of six girls, as random and accidental as my choice of university had been. We had some pre-existing ties: three of us were friends from camp, two of us were friends from highschool. But in the important ways, we were strangers. We developed a "clique" that resembled those that I had only read about in teen novels -- a group that I would be told by others was revered and feared. I had never been a part of something like this, a place where I felt prettier by association, more confident, more important than standing alone. On the surface, it was all the makings of a crew found at Sweet Valley High. But deep within, we developed complicated and consistent relationships that carried us through four years, even in times when we thought we were ready to stand on our own.

This reunion weekend mirrored my college experience almost exactly: the weather sucked, the food sucked, the events were disappointing. But none of it mattered amidst the warm nourishment of friendship. Some were there in person, others there in spirit, but the weekend recreated much of our time at Brandeis: alot of waiting around for something great to happen, and passing that time with stuff that was even better. It had been a long time since I barged into a friends room to find her in her PJs, or to sit on the floor, braless and in mismatched socks, gossiping about the evening to come.

I learned a tremendous amount from these girls, now women. These lessons have impacted me far more deeply than those learned in the classroom. So in honor of this anniversary, and the girls who will always be my family, I will share some of these lessons with you.

1. Always make a house a home. Even when it is a shitty dorm.
2. Guys do make passes at girls who were glasses.
3. Smile and the world smiles with you.
4. Use your voice for beauty and not for evil.
5. Less is more.

1. Great friendship and great love are almost indistinguishable.
2. Love means always having to say "I'm sorry".
3. You can look like a slut as long as you act like a prude.
4. Don't take no for an answer.
5. Anger is healthy.

1. The art of great conversation is one of the most valuable assets imaginable.
2. You need not always make peace with the pain of the past.
3. Great love letters need not only be sent to great loves.
4. Always thank the host before you leave the party.
5. Confidence is sexy.

1. Family is fundamental.
2. The best things come to those who wait.
3. Things left unsaid can be ruinous.
4. Sleep is one of life's true luxuries.
5. Fear is more easily conquered with someone as scared as you are.

1. True beauty lies within our differences.
2. You have to work hard to get what you really want.
3. It's good to be the boss.
4. Always have a surprise in store.
5. Erase your own stereotype.


At 1:46 PM PDT, Anonymous gila said...

As I read, I kept hoping it wasn't the last paragraph. Thank you for this. xoxo

At 8:47 PM PDT, Anonymous Leigh said...

Me too! Love that I beat out Jill for the "boss"! Totally agree re: Denise and anger=healthy - I feel like I've learned that from her too! And SLEEP - wow, Leah used to sleep. It was like she was making up for lost time when she got to college!

Remember when you put the Xmas tree up in my room! That was the best surprise!

I love this! I think it's reunion week over at the RP!


PS: Now I know why I came in 2nd to last in Jeopardy - once again, I missed the sitting around gossipping! (I was shopping and trying on outfits. Damnit!)

At 8:43 AM PDT, Blogger Hanan said...


Like that flower poem Leigh was talking about ... pitch perfect portrait-lists.

Anger is healthy, love is healthier, and love wears anger.

"Cruel, unjust, exploitative, oppressive, slavery bound two peoples together in bitter antagonism while creating an organic relationship so complex and ambivalent that neither could express the simplest human feelings without refernce to the other." -- Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll

thank you,

At 2:15 PM PDT, Blogger Amy said...

Thanks to all the Brandesians who posted here with their own words! --Amy

At 7:46 AM PDT, Blogger Denise said...

That was so special. I think you summed us up so well and that's why you win Jeopardy. LOL re Leah and sleep :) But you left one of us out may I have the honor
1. The art of a good friend is a good listener.
2. An ally does not judge your faults.
3. To empathize goes a hell of a lot further than to sympathize.
4. You can make a large room from a small closet.
5. Laughter is a necessary part of grieving.

love you Amy

At 1:44 PM PDT, Anonymous Leigh said...

D- Thanks for taking care of that for us! :)

At 7:35 PM PDT, Blogger Hanan said...

ijusthaveonemorethingtosaythoughi'mtemptedtoletleighhavethelastwordwhendideveryonebecomesof l u e n t

At 4:06 PM PDT, Blogger Jill said...

I can't believe Leigh was surprised she beat me at the boss. No contest, toots. Carry that torch with honor, as always!

Loo-loo: I am as inspired by you today as I was that August day in 1993 when we met with Wendy-whats-her-name (Proskin?) and you laughed at my jokes and I finally had a friend with hair curly like mine. We have all stood on your shoulders and you have held us there with ease - no matter how heavy the loads. I hope that one day I will be able to return the favor.

Consider this an excerpt from a love letter to a gal who really is one of my true loves...


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