A few months ago, I had a conversation with my mom that went like this:
- MOM: It’s already been ten years since your college graduation?!?
- ME: Yes.
- MOM: No wonder I’ve got so many grey hairs.
Earlier this month, I packed up a rental car and headed back to my alma matter (College of the Holy Cross) for my ten-year college reunion. For your reference, I went to a school that makes a pretty big deal out of these kinds of events. I missed out on my five-year reunion because I was living in London that summer for my graduate program. So this time around, I was dead set on not missing out again.
I had an amazing college experience and a perfectly great reunion weekend. Over the past 10 years, I’ve always found myself excited to return to campus, whether it was to attend fall homecoming, an alumni event or even a friend’s wedding. Catching up with old friends while getting to stay in the dorms again is certainly one way to stir up old and fond memories.
Now if you’ve attended a college reunion in the past, I’m pretty sure you understand that these things don’t go down without a considerable degree of fun. Believe me when I tell you that hearing stories about our five-year reunion was nothing less than entertaining. We’re talking closet doors taken off the hinges in order to play beer pong. It doesn’t get more collegiate than that. So in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I’d share some of my favorite observations, tips and recommendations for doing college all over again…. in your 30’s:
1. Reconnecting is always a good experience… and even surprising. I went to a pretty small college. The student population at my Southern California public high school is still bigger than Holy Cross. Although many people might consider that a drawback, I actually enjoyed the experience of attending a small campus. Even better, I had a great time reconnecting with my classmates after 10 years. There were lots of familiar faces, some of which I’ve kept in touch with over the years and others I’ve only seen on occasion. I was your average kid in college and kept mostly to my small circle of friends, so it was a pleasant surprise to bump into folks outside of that circle who remembered me and were nice enough to stop and chat.
2. If you’re staying the dorms, be prepared. Spending a few nights in the dorms while in your 30’s is not as comfortable as you remember. Those XL-twin beds basically suck if you don’t add 3 inches of memory foam on top. A classmate of mine hilariously referred to them as cardboard beds. For your own sanity, bring an air mattress instead. And while you’re at it, toss some extra pillows, sheets, shower shoes and a fan into the car before hitting the road. You’ll thank me later.
3. If your weekend involves alcohol, party at your peril. Most people plan for and remember reunion weekend as one long state of inebriation. Bottles upon bottles of beer and booze are rolled into the dorms, along with plenty of ice and red solo cups. I must admit that this is not how I played it. I’m not much of a heavy drinker these days, so if there’s any experience I’m guilty of is knowing when I’ve hit my limit and when to get to bed. For many, this doesn’t happen. But hey, we’re all adults. If you plan to get crazy, just make sure you have contingencies (or remedies) for when you have to drive yourself back home the next day.
4. If you paid to attend an event, go. Arrive on time. And eat the food. The food at reunion isn’t as terrible as you remember the dining hall experience to be. Plus, if you plan on doing a whole lot of #4 on this list, you’re going to need the extra carbs to defend your stomach (and liver). If you there’s an open bar at your events, take advantage. And if there isn’t, make friends with the folks in charge of the surplus drink tickets. This year we even had a special workout (free of charge) organized with fellow classmate (and Men’s Health 2015 Next Top Trainer) Gideon Akande. He managed to make it fun but still challenging – my legs were in pain for days!
5. Raid the bookstore and re-stock on the nostalgia. I bought a Holy Cross t-shirt the day of my graduation, and it last quite a few years. I freakin’ loved that thing! But the tiny hole that formed on the bottom front kept expanding with every cycle in the washer and dryer. Two years ago, it finally met its demise. Hitting up the bookstore will give you a chance to replenish some of these favorite items. And if your school is as cool as mine, they’ll give you a store-wide discount the entire weekend you’re on campus.
6. Make sure to put it all in perspective. At 32, my life is moving in a completely different direction than when I was at 22. And that’s OK. While some things will remain the same – like that fro-yo machine in the dining hall you could never resist at dinner – others are meant to stay in motion. For me, going back to the place where I truly felt my adult life started has always served as a reminder of the dreams I had for myself. It gives me a chance to evaluate how far I’ve come, determine what I still need/want to accomplish and perhaps discover new directions I hadn’t known about or previously considered. Don’t spend too much time yearning for the past. Look ahead. After all, the world is your oyster and whatnot.