Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The 5-Year Reunion, Part 2

Part 1

Five years ago, continued...


“MySpace is dead!” someone (Kathryn?  Kara?) cried out over breakfast the next day when the topic turned to social networking.

I know that the rest of the world has ditched MySpace for Facebook, but Facebook hasn’t given me a customizable blog that the public can read and for that, and many other reasons, it has yet to earn my devotion.  The people at the breakfast table with me used to read this blog religiously, but I’m pretty sure none of them will read what I’m writing right now.

As I listened to everyone bash the website that I have poured my heart and soul into since 2006, those insecurities from the day before returned.

I’m know I’m not the easiest person to be friends with, but I’m pretty sure if anyone at that table wrote a blog, I’d care enough to read it.


After breakfast we went to campus to catch a little of the Homecoming game and then do some more wandering around.  We walked through our old dorms.  We ran into professors who, surprisingly, seemed to still remember us.  And then we ran into my former academic advisor, who used to read this blog.  He told me how relieved he’d been when I started making my posts about my workplace visible to MySpace friends only.

“They were really funny,” he said.  “But I had a bad feeling about you getting fired or something over what you were writing.”

He asked what I was up to now.

Part-time job.  Unfinished book.  Still on MySpace.  I felt the full force of my self-doubt return as I ceded the floor to the rest of the group, all of whom talked about grad school.

“Grad school” is so much easier to talk about than “still on MySpace.”


Five years really isn’t enough time.  No one has aged enough to look different, and no one has done enough to truly separate themselves from their college lives…particularly those who jumped straight back into school and have not yet self-identified as anything in other than “student.”

And yet.

And yet we are older.  And yet we have moved on.  And yet here we were, thrust together again in surroundings that used to be familiar.

The Class of 2004’s Official Class Reunion was held in the amphitheater on campus on Saturday night.  We were entertained by a DJ and a slideshow.  Most of the pictures in the slideshow had been submitted by people who were not in attendance.  There was also an open bar, and three Bloody Marys after I got there, I was ready to voice my opinion on the slideshow being taken over by people who hadn’t even bothered to show up.

“What is this?  Why do these people think we want to stand around looking at pictures of them when they’re not even fucking here?” I asked no one in particular.  Someone mentioned that Richard (huh, I’d forgotten about Richard) was getting married that weekend, and that’s where half of our class was…

Which made me remember…

Richard was part of my lab group freshman year in zoology, along with Lindsay.  Lindsay, whom, according to Facebook, just married Steve.  (Where were Lindsay and Steve?)  Our zoology professor notoriously never gave A’s, ever.  It was just his policy that whatever our best was, it could always be improved upon.  The presentation that Lindsay, Richard, and I gave at the end of the semester he called “the best student presentation I’ve ever seen.”

He gave us a B+.

The rest of my freshman lab group was married now and living it up and there I was back in the amphitheater, getting drunk.

“I think I need another Bloody Mary,” I told Kara.


The mascot of Rhodes is a lynx cat and in commemoration of this, there is a large, bronze lynx statue just above the amphitheater, near the entrance to the physics building.  It is supposedly an undergraduate rite of passage to ride the lynx naked at least once during one’s tenure at Rhodes.

Neither I nor anyone in my immediate area had ridden the lynx naked, but as the party broke up and we filed out of the amphitheater, it seemed like a really good idea for me to ride it clothed.

So I did.  Kara, the only other person in our group who had had as much to drink as I had, climbed up and rode it with me (much less kinky than it sounds).

A passing group of students stopped to watch us.

“Hey, what year are you?” a guy asked me once I was back on the ground.


“What?!” the guy said.  “I thought you were a current student!”

“Dude.  This is our five-year reunion.”

He took a step toward me and, smiling…

“So what are you doing now?” he asked.


What am I doing now?

What am I doing now?

What I was doing now was standing around at my five-year college reunion feeling inferior because I hadn’t walked the same hackneyed path to a career and multiple degrees as everyone else.  What I was doing now was feeling sorry for myself and not even knowing why since any other day of my life I wouldn’t have cared one goddamn bit whether or not Richard was married or Julia was dating Sweater Vest.  What I was doing now was getting really fucking angry that I’d spent four years of my life working my ass off at this school and what the hell did I have to show for it?

Jack shit.

“Jack shit!” I spat out.  “I am doing JACK SHIT!!”

Megan:  “Becky, get away from the students!”

Kara (to the students):  “Don’t listen to her.  You just need to go to grad school!”

Becky:  “Don’t go to grad school!  You’ll just go into debt!”

Oh, but saying that made me feel guilty because all of my friends are either currently in or have recently graduated from grad school.  So I amended:

Becky:  “No, it really isn’t that bad!  I’m sorry!  You’ll get to come back here after you graduate! Getting drunk in the amphitheater and riding the lynx.  That’s what’s waiting for you in five years.”

Sometimes the truth hurts.


Yes, there goes Becky again, making everyone super-uncomfortable.  You might think I would blame it on the alcohol, but that would be a gross simplification of my abilities to stir up trouble.  I love the time I spent at Rhodes.  I hate that it took such a heavy dose of reality for me to understand that the hard work I put in as a student wasn’t necessarily going to translate into real world advantages.  I left there thinking that I was better than the rabble.  And I was wrong.  What you make of your life is up to you, not the institution that gives you a degree.  That’s what I was trying to say.

That and that I still have some work to do.  I’m not there yet.

But I fear some of that nuance may have been left behind with the Bloody Marys.


Because the obvious next step was to drink more, Megan dropped Kara, Kathryn, Crystal and me off near Beale Street, where we wound up at Silky O’Sullivans, along with half of the rest of our class, and half of several other classes.

We were just getting ready to leave when we were approached by some younger alumni (Class of 2009), one of whom was wearing a bow tie.

Bow Tie Boy locked in on me.  Personal experience told me he was headed for at least a 36-hour hangover, and yet when he sat down next to me, he held onto the conversation better than I hold onto most conversations sober.  A friend of his sat down next to Crystal and Kathryn.

I interrupted their sales pitch to let them know that we were INCREDIBLY OLD.  Class-of-TWO-THOUSAND-AND-FOUR OLD.

Bow Tie Boy rolled his eyes.  “You’re ‘so old.’  Why are you saying you’re ‘so old’?  You’re not old! You’re like…you’re cougars!  RAWR!”

Twenty-seven years old, and already I was a cougar.

“I so would have gone for you when you were a senior and I was a freshman,” he continued.  “God, that would have been hot.”

Bow Tie Boy may have been off on his math, but I let him drag me to the dance floor anyway.

And in another circumstance, I may have stuck it out.  Because he was cute and he was happy and he reminded me of something…

He reminded me of college.  Or at least of what college was for other people.  Or of what college was starting to be for me my senior year.

But I was seeing now that I couldn’t get back there anymore.

So I stopped.

He may have been plastered, but he was aware enough to recognize a mood shift when it happened.  I wrapped my arm around his neck, pulled him to me, lowered my mouth to his ear, and quietly said, “I’m not drunk enough to be doing this.”

And even through the haze of alcohol, he seemed to understand that I was going through something a little bigger than he was prepared to deal with that evening, so he graciously led me away from the band.


I found Kara and Kathryn waiting for me with my purse.  We swung back by our table to pick up Crystal.  And then we…

…went clubbing.

“Why didn’t we ever come here in college?” Kara yelled to me at Raiford’s (infamous for the undisputed truth than any patron who dares to enter will not regain full hearing for at least two days).

“I don’t know!” I yelled back.  “Because we were studying all the fucking time?”  I turned to Crystal.

“Did you ever come here in college?”

“What?” she asked.

A little after 3:00 we hailed a cab to take us back to my place.  The driver did his best to entertain us by telling stories of the people he’d driven around Memphis, but the four of us were quiet – exhausted, suddenly, from everything we’d done that day.

As he dropped us off at he said, “I’m not going to have any stories to tell about you!”

I apologized to him.

And I went to bed with my ears ringing.

Part 3

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