I never went to my college graduation. I got out of Jersey as fast as I could back then, got out and went west to where my new life was waiting for me with all of the mountains and rock faces and sage brushes I could find. I skipped out of the east a full month before I was supposed to sit through a commencement ceremony, and told myself I was making a logical choice. But I’ve regretted it since. Each time I have thought about college I have this confusing pang of feelings that is impossible to decipher. So I went back, last week, for my tenth reunion to figure it out.
Turns out I made good choices ten years ago. As much as I wanted or thought I might have missed something back then, I’m either still missing it now, or figured out I didn’t need it. It was good to go back. To see friends, to see a space, to sit as myself in that space, and to realize that it was as much me as anything is me. Which means I didn’t really figure it out, or decided I did not need to.
It was hot and rainy and beautiful in Jersey last week. Everything was green and popping. After 14 hours of a weekend-long reunion, everything also smelled of beer. Princeton’s reunions are New Jersey’s largest annual beer consumption event. Try that one on for size. I did. I went there at the end of this first push of my book tour, after speaking and touring all around the country. I was raw, exhausted, and vulnerable to that over-analysis of choices past and present. But even when I debated not going, I knew that I was in the perfect space to voyage back to my college stomping grounds. I didn’t want to be put together. I wanted to be stripped to see what happened. Talking to friend before going they asked me why I was going—it’s just an exercise in telling people how cool you are, he said. For me it was an exercise in the opposite. It was an exercise for sitting in a space and seeing what it felt like. This was not the reunion that all of my friends were at. I spent a lot of time be myself. I spent a lot of time looking around and telling myself that this, like everything, is part of me. Sure, I wanted it to bring upon some realization. I wanted the girl I was at 21 to look at the woman I am now and tell me something to make it all make sense. But when I got there I instead just shook my head at the girl still inside of me.