I can’t imagine a more formative decade than the one that takes us from age 22 to 32. As my friends and I made plans to return for our 10th reunion, we stood on our own — adults, finally! — far from the children we didn’t realize we still were when we marched out FitzRandolph Gate. By now, most of us have a career, and many are married. The 10th is a place from which to turn back and examine the path along which we have come, and to re-present ourselves to friends, professors, and classmates.
As I contemplated walking into the 10th-reunion tent, I consulted the Instagram feeds of a few women whose style I used to admire in the basement of Tiger Inn and tried to cajole my reluctant husband into being my most valuable accessory. I was attempting to construct an external representation of the internal self I have created over the last decade: a director at a major publishing house, a writer, a besotted wife. It was like playing dress-up — as myself. How do you show people that you are, well, who you want to be, or at least that you’re on your way?
“Wait,” my husband exclaimed, a bit too delightedly. “It’s the last weekend in May? Oh, sorry, darling, I’m back in London!” There goes the handsome husband in orange I’d imagined for the last 10 years.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. Christy Franklin Gersh ’05 admits to preparing with extra workouts and loading her phone with photos of her 1-year-old son. Everyone seemed to be shopping. I fielded a few panicked texts about whether we were all “really wearing the costume” (the hats were a success, but the sheer white pants of our class’s jockey costume were impossible).
A friend explains that she’s happy with the life choices she’s made — “but there’s something about the 10th that makes me want everyone else to be happy with the choices I’ve made, too.”
In the days leading up to Reunions, I catch myself nearly quivering with excitement at the thought of seeing all my friends in one place. I’m even excited to see acquaintances. Someone once told me the most valuable thing about a Princeton education is the friends you make there.
When my train pulls in, I’m nervous. The Wa looks different; the station has moved. Is this still my Princeton? But I enter the Foulke courtyard, my old dorm, and time bends the way Professor Richard Gott *73 explained it could in Astrophysics 203. Everyone I know is there. I am immediately, intensely, infectiously happy.
On Friday night, Maggie Todd ’05 and her father, Bob ’70, invite a few of us for dinner. It is my favorite moment, the togetherness of it. As I look at my friends — doctors, school principals, entrepreneurs, and most remarkably, mothers — I realize I had been worrying for weeks about whether we measured up. We’d all been through a lot — illnesses, the deaths of friends and loved ones, including classmate Katie Swanson — and we had grown up.
Gone is the wild insouciance of the fifth, replaced by something tenderer. At the P-rade, an event that I always have found emotional, I realize Reunions is an affirmation that, whatever fortunes and misfortunes come, we are here, we are together, and we are moving forward. I love Princeton for the education I got, its beauty, its legacy, and its stunning fireworks display. But I come back for the people. I was palpably sad to leave the little wrinkle in time of Reunions weekend. The bonds, where they had grown lax, were tightened. The ghosts of my memories were resurrected. Like the four years I spent here, the weekend was precious and grand — and over far too quickly.