So I recently went back to my university alma mater for a class reunion. I was so apprehensive about going, plagued by a dozen or more self-doubting, insecurity-laced questions beforehand, such as : have I succeeded the way I thought I would by now? Am I good enough? Will I measure up to my classmates’ expectations when I go back to campus? I was becoming so anxiety-ridden about the entire reunion, that despite having paid for all of the travel, lodging and other logistics, I nearly cancelled my trip the week of, so I that I didn’t have to bother going at all.
That was nonsense though and I knew I couldn’t cop out at the last minute. I had to go. Not only because I believe in facing my fears by confronting the demons from my past head on, but also because I was going to meet up with my best friend and fellow alumnus (check out her blog at: http://noapologiesfitness.blogspot.com/). After all, she’s also my life coach and I wouldn’t want to disappoint a friend and colleague. Especially given that Cameesha G. is one of my biggest supporters and even appears as the model on the cover of my latest released book.
Let’s backtrack though. Why was I all but hyperventilating about returning to the place where I spent my “golden” college years? Don’t most people associate fun and relative responsibility-free living to that time in their lives? If they do, they probably didn’t go to this particular university which stressed (and continues to stress) the hell out of strict discipline, conservative propriety, focus, overachievement, and overwork to forge legends. Not at all what you’d expect for a place designed for carefree college kids, right? So exhaustion to the point of utter burnout, and misery are some of the painful feelings I had long ago associated my university experience with in my mind.
Anyway, I managed to talk myself into going to the reunion. As I made it through a myriad of travel delays, severe weather and finally got to the school in the middle of the night after I drove in from an airport about 90 miles away (a drive that used to take me about an hour and a half, which due to the rain, wind and pitch black dark back roads that night turned into three and a half hours instead), I was already hella hesitant about how the rest of the weekend would go. Was this already a bad omen?
Yet, as the three day time frame progressed, I began to realize that as a real adult now, what I needed was a perspective change. What were the positives I’d gained from those so-called grueling undergrad years? Well for starters, work ethic as well as learning to never back down from a seemingly impossible challenge, but to embrace it instead. Indeed, I had made it through the fire storm and the school had in many ways allowed me to be reborn with the knowledge that I was survivor and even a thriver. I could make it through anything in life and had already proven it through my trial by fire.
In retrospect, I also realized that I had been extremely lucky, blessed even to have had such an opportunity to learn, grow personally and make life-long connections. Also, maybe the issue was that I had judged the university overall too harshly in the past. Every system and organization, much like every person, has its own strengths as well as flaws. If my undergrad had been a person, would I judge it by such extreme standards, expecting it could give me a perfect life forever here after? Of course, not. So clearly I needed to redirect my mind and how I thought about my college life. My undergrad experience might not have been what I was expecting at the time, the way the experience was wined, dined and sold to me beforehand, but it did make me stronger and more resilient in the aftermath.
As I sat talking to a classmate of mine, Charles Thomas, Jr. in a local pub, just on the outskirts of the campus, we discussed some of the struggles we’ve personally gone through or have witnessed other alumni experiencing in the few years since graduation. We discussed invisible scars, the kinds that I address, but just briefly in: The Chocolate Chronicles Volume 2: Fudge Brownies – Trouble At All Costs, and that he relates more deeply and personally in his autobiography: Scars, Exile & Vindication: My Life As An Experiment (http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-61862-366-9).
‘You know, it’s amazing to me how this school breeds both workaholics and alcoholics,’ I remarked to Charles as I took another sip of my shot of Goldschlagger. I had to pace myself, so I didn’t just toss back the entire shot at once. ‘There are so many of us who are so smart, talented and lost, who also just have low self esteem, no matter how much we individually overachieve.’ Charles just gave me a kind of haunted look for a second as we continued to sit there in amiable silence and then worked on finishing our current round of drinks. Apparently, I’d struck a nerve. What he didn’t know is that I wasn’t speaking in some covert code, indirectly pointing a finger at him with my comments. I was really talking about myself.
However, as I walked about the campus later in the weekend, just as it was when I was talking to Charles, I didn’t feel lonely and isolated this time at the university. What I finally came to terms with is even though there are a number of cultural, ideological and outer appearance differences between me and the many other alumni that were there that weekend, I had a crucial epiphany. We might all have different outer wrappers, but fundamentally, they’re all covering the same kind of candy. A lot of good people just trying to figure out who they are, what they want and how to make it through life with their sanity intact so they can take of themselves and their families.
So in the end, the reunion was definitely worthwhile and I’m so glad I went. Those three days did more for me than five years of therapy ever did or could. Especially since I finally found more than just closure during reunion. I obtained the one thing that had eluded me for years – peace of mind. It was a definite reminder that if God created me and determined I’m good enough to be here in existence at all, there’s no need to allow any fears or misconceived notions of inferiority part me from that realization and actualization ever again.