I may not have ended up where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be. Douglas Adams
Prepare to be surprised.
Class reunions can provoke a sense of trepidation, prompting me to wonder, why do people go? I know I experienced mixed emotions in deciding to go to my nursing class’s 40th anniversary reunion at Queen’s University. Reunions are a study in contrast between who we were and who we are now. Perhaps motivated by curiosity, we wonder who will come and who won’t; what former class mates have been doing; and of course what everyone looks like. Do I want to go? I asked myself as I looked in the mirror, momentarily dismayed by those lines on my face, greying hair, and extra pounds I had not managed to shed. Phooey, I thought- I am going to go and have a great time. And so with a dear friend from my student days, I headed off to Kingston for Homecoming.
This reunion was notable because it marked the 175th anniversary of the University and the 75th anniversary of the School of Nursing. I loved taking everything in and experiencing the energy of the place, watching the Queen’s pipe band, visiting favourite haunts, seeing other alumni, and being amazed at how incredibly young the students are now.
I learned that a number of my class mates had worked in nursing for much of their careers. Others took different paths and carved out interesting lives for themselves. Many of us ended up in places we did not expect to be- both personally and professionally. I was in awe of it all. What extraordinary women I thought, as we shared dinner together. In many ways we are still the same. The laughter, the expressions, and the exchanges brought back memories. I am astonished at how you can go a long time without seeing someone and pick up where you left off.
Reunions are bittersweet- a great reminder of how far we have come and what lies ahead. We start with dreams, some of which are realized and some not. Maybe we don’t end up where we expected, but hopefully we’re in the place we need to be, doing what matters to us. Class reunions confront us with that very question: Has our life led us to where we need to be? Are we doing what we want to do?
When I graduated, I held lofty notions about nursing and life and dreams. I was unsure what I would ultimately do, but not knowing felt like an adventure wrapped within the confidence of youth- knowing that everything would work out. A surprise in waiting! Were there doubts and frustration along the way? Yes. Were there other possibilities and dreams I had to let go? Yes. But I felt a sense of hope and I knew there were paths open to me. I wish I could have taken them all, but that is not how life works. How fortunate we are if we can look back and accept those decisions and paths as ones we needed to take in spite of challenges and difficulties along the way.
The difficulty with reunions is that others want to know where you ended up. Part of me resists a response. We don’t end up anywhere. We’re at a point in time, forever figuring it out. We continue to search for the best path for right now, realizing it changes as we change and knowing it’s an adventure wrapped within the confidence of years of life experience- knowing that everything will work out. A surprise in waiting!
Reunions are simply a time to catch up, celebrate, and be with friends. To reflect, to wistfully consider the “what if’s”, to let go regrets and remember (hopefully) a wonderful moment in our lives shared with people who meant a lot to us. How great is that?
Oil Thigh na Banrighinn gu Brath! Cha Gheill! Cha Gheill! Cha Gheill!
(Gaelic conclusion to Queen’s traditional cheer, meaning “Queen’s forever, no surrender”)