Last weekend was my 10 year college reunion. I have to admit – I was really nervous leading up to the weekend. A little, utterly irrational part of me kept thinking something along the lines of:
- I’ve never left the bay area
- I don’t work at a start up or one of the “flashy” name companies (Apple, Google, etc)
- I still work in higher ed (nothing wrong with that unto itself, but it’s what I’ve always done)
Along with these admittedly illogical concerns, reunions are always stressful events. You always feel like you’re being judged and compare yourself with what others have done. Who has advanced degrees, what kinds, who is doing what kind of work, and how I stack up under a variety of rubrics. It’s almost like college football rankings – one poll has me ranked “85th,” another says I’m “193rd” and somehow I’m not even on the board on a third.
Now that I’ve gotten that self-esteem stuff out of the way, what was perhaps the most surprising aspect of reconnecting with classmates was that almost everyone was surprised that I honestly, truly wanted to know how and what they were doing. If someone was a lawyer, I was curious about what kind of law he or she was practicing. If working at a financial firm (Fidelity, etc), I was curious if he or she was managing a fund to some extent, doing analysis, or something in between. I don’t know much about financial companies such as that and I want to know more.
People were truly surprised that I wanted to know things to that level of detail. That I truly, honestly wanted to know, and enjoyed discovering that I went to school with someone that is now with the US District Attorney’s Office in New York, or that one of my freshman dorm mates is now working as a writer on his second television show. I feel enriched having had a conversation with someone that graduated from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and has gone onto work in the health care industry and had a different take on the whole debate (sidebar: quick shout out to another friend that went to Booth, who should already know that I value that friendship).
What was interesting was that, after I poked a hole through that superficial layer of small talk and made it clear that I was truly interested, the person on the other end became interested in what I did, too. And it felt good when I was asked about what kind of technology I was trying to implement at the law school (especially since it seemed about half of my entire class are now lawyers). Or about how I really felt that business processes were important to academia – these were fellow former students, after all, reunited at the campus where we shared classrooms and listened to professors.
Maybe I’m not so boring after all. I know for sure that I have some truly fascinating former classmates and dorm mates from college.