I recently went on a long trip. One of the things I did was go to my unofficial college reunion in Arizona.
My best friends in college were two lovely women named Sidra and Clarice. Both of them are doing well now, and it was a lot of fun to catch up. I am really glad that I took the time and spent the money to make it possible.
The reunion brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings for me. Most of them are sort of private, but I did want to share a few things that might help others.
1. Keep in touch with snail mail.
I am always surprised at how much it means to people to get post cards and seasonal greeting cards. I guess this is because mail is always exciting. You can hold it in your hand, and put it on your refrigerator. It is a way to display that someone thought of you. Most people just get bills and junk mail, so getting things you didn’t expect that make you happy can be very special.
I have been sending post cards and holiday greeting cards for about 20 years, and I think this is part of what makes people feel like they are still connected to me, even after years apart. I had not seen Sidra and Clarice in 10 years due to all of us being in different countries, but we still felt connected and like we were good friends.
Though it might seem silly, I will also add that I never got a label maker, nor do I run envelopes through my printer. I hand address each envelope, write a personal message referencing things in the person’s life, and include a Holiday Letter talking about my year. People bring up these personal touches when they see me, and thank me for them. That is how I know that they matter.
2. Make connections in college.
We all know that nepotism is how people get the really good jobs. The narrative is that anyone can do anything if they go to college, but the reality is that without connections, your degree is meaningless.
In college, I was so busy working to support myself, studying, and looking after my wayward aerospace engineer boyfriend that I missed a lot of chances to connect. I should have gone to my professor’s office hours and “kissed ass,” as they say. I should have tried to make more friends on campus. (And, probably richer more powerful friends.) I should have seen the scholarship breakfasts I had to go to as an opportunity instead of a burden.
The truth is; I was so busy surviving that I forgot to live. I wish that I had put more effort into climbing ladders instead of just working hard and thinking that would be enough to succeed. I bought the lie. I regret that.
3. Take chances.
I still regret winning a scholarship to study in Costa Rica in college, but then deciding not to take it. I was afraid that my boyfriend would get kick out of school while I was away (since he had so much trouble getting up in the morning.) I was worried that my boss would replace me at work. I was worried about where to store my stuff…
The truth is, I still regret not going.
If you get the chance to have a new or different experience, just take it! Even if you have to find a new job when you get back and put your stuff in storage. Just do it!
It’s true what they say: You only regret the chances you don’t take.
Over the years I have done a lot of wild things, like running away with the Renaissance Festival and then taking off to teach in South Korea. I don’t regret any of those things. But I still regret not doing that semester abroad.
I am hardly an oracle of brilliant advice. I am just a person who has been wandering around the world for awhile now, and I would like to think that those three pieces of advice are pretty solid.
I guess it also goes without saying that you should never lose touch with your friends. I am so glad I kept in touch with Clarice and Sid all these years!