10 Years in the Stream

I’ll admit, I’m the dork that was the first person to RSVP to my class reunion. After spending the last two years abroad, I was happy to return home to see friends and familiar faces.

I’m close with our class president, who was saddled with organizing our 10-year reunion this fall. And we gchatted of her struggles to get people to RSVP, putting on the social pressure on to promote the event among close-knit circles of friends via Facebook.

And that’s just it. We’re all there on Facebook. We were a class of just under 100 students by senior year, and most of us found each other in the intervening years after we graduated when Facebook made the rounds to our respective colleges in 2004.

So we’ve all kept up on each others’ lives. I have a good sense of where people have moved to, where they are working these days. I know who has gotten married, who just had a baby (or four). And I’ve seen enough baby pictures to know the names of the latest additions.

I also know who’s gained weight. I know who never left our hometown. Who’s running marathons. Who has a tendency to post about important moments in Boston sporting events. Who’s had a family member pass away.

And we all keep in touch with our closest friends from high school. There are phone calls, emails, Skype dates. There are bridal parties and visits to meet newborns, even if we’ve ended up dispersed around the country.

And I think that’s the trouble. That’s the stuff of what reunions were supposed to be for—for keeping in touch with the acquaintances you knew well enough from years growing up in the same building together, but only enough to care about those big picture details. Where did you end up, what are you doing now. We all get those details from Facebook, bypassing the awkward interaction over finger foods and well drinks, rife with all that adolescent history you shared.

Yet, somehow having those grainy details already out of the way meant that we ended up having more substantive conversations before stepping away for the chicken satay. And somehow those conversations actually ended up feeling a little more real, and a little less superficial. We bonded over impending trips to Asia, wedding planning strategies, late-20s career insecurities.

And in talking about what we’re doing now, we discovered some common threads in our career trajectories that started somewhere deep in that Honors Biology class. We lamented over how intense the teacher was, and speculated about the influence they might have on us today. I flashed back to that special current events report I wrote on hybrid vehicle technology and can’t help but draw a direct line to the chapter I’m writing on self-driving cars right now.

No reunion is complete without a little embarrassing yearbook nostalgia. At the back of ours, the yearbook committee had written ten-year forecasts for the entire class. Mine suggested that by 2013 I would have written two novels and another one on the way, and I’d be teaching at an Ivy League university. Wildly ambitious for ten years out of high school (to the writer’s credit for having such confidence in me). But in the hyperbole, there were seeds of truth: now working on a book, and hanging out at Harvard as a Berkman Fellow. At the time, I remember being incensed about the prediction because of course, you might think an English major would write books, I deemed it a little too predictable and uninspired. Still, in every iteration of my career over the past ten years, I’ve been a writer under different guises. Uncannily prescient, and all but forgotten without this occasion to remember.

Even in an age of Facebook, where we can keep tabs on whoever we want, with as little or as much touch as we choose, there’s something worthwhile in the face-to-face gathering in our old stomping grounds to note the passage of time. Sure, reflecting like this is more appealing when you like where you’re going and where you’ve come from. But there’s something grounding about taking a moment out of the stream to plant a stake in the ground for ten years passed. And there’s something special about doing it with the people who were there through those fraught and formative adolescent years.