A few weeks ago I went to my fifth college reunion. I know what you’re thinking: Karishma, that’s not that far removed from college, it won’t be weird. You probably saw half of those people last week. That’s where you’d be wrong.
It’s weird to see people you haven’t seen in five years while trying to suppress the feeling that you have too much left to accomplish to begin to measure up to your peers (you don’t). It’s even weirder to watch that tension play out in small ways, whether a former classmate asks you if you’re happy doing what you’re doing (somehow implying at we should have achieved our pinnacle happiness at 27), or whether you forget to lead with your highest degree so everyone assumes they’re doing better than you. You don’t really need to play academic Olympics because, who cares? You won’t see these people for another five years, anyway. A lot of this is internalized self-doubt and general anxiety, but this awkwardness and nostalgia is what makes reunions the worst, and makes reunion bars the best.
Because my reunion was a mix of remorse and early bedtime due to day drinking, I’ve compiled a handy list for any young college graduate to use to face their own college reunion fears. This list won’t contain practical life advice like how to network at a college reunion, because I haven’t figured that out yet. Arguably, few have.
Don’t overdo the day drinking.
Don’t drink scotch at 2 p.m. This is especially important if said drinking is going to be done from a plastic travel mug you received as a welcome gift at sign-in two hours ago. You probably don’t need the liquid courage. It’ll all be weird either way.
Do hide in a dark bar full of shame and gin.
This contradicts the previous note, but once you’ve made it to at least one academic event and you grinned and bore your way through the sparsely attended reception mostly full of people looking for free snacks, you deserve a small celebratory token. Plus bartenders are great at distracting you from your problems, at least according to movies and TV.
Don’t worry about attending all the events.
The schedule is probably overwhelming, and you might realize you’re still fairly close to being a student yourself, so your nostalgia for academic lectures and museum tours might be fairly limited. Your nostalgia will shrink dramatically if you: a.) ever worked for your college after graduation, b.) ever worked in academia, or c.) was or are currently in graduate school. You probably should refer to the previous tip.
Do reconnect with old friends.
That’s what reunions are for. It’s okay to use Facebook and the reunion registration to scope out and see if anyone you know is going. Everyone will do it, trust me. Look for old hallmates, or roommates, or senior seminar study buddies. It hasn’t been that long. Everyone remembers that time your post-grad housemate called you for reinforcements when he was trapped in the garage by a menacing deer, and everyone is trying to forget annoying sophomore in your Modern Social Theory class. You can have at least two minutes of solid conversation before it gets weird and you’ll need to have an escape route planned.
Don’t lose your friends.
I don’t mean emotionally, but you probably shouldn’t do that, either. I’m talking about the ol’ safety in numbers buddy system. If you’re panicking about going to your reunion alone, remember to take a buddy. Your buddy will be an emotional constant throughout the event, help you recap the whole nostalgia fest, and will actually physically come find you when you run off towards the woods when you’re drunk after dinner. Friends can also decode drunk text messages and debrief the next day.
Do order bedtime meals i.e., the most dependable food ever, pizza.
On a practical note: it will help with your hangover. On an emotional note: it will lull you into a false sense of security and comfort you as you face your untapped potential. Enjoy the pizza (or other late-night food of choice), even if it tastes like the past and a sassy recent grad is there asking to use your campus passes to reunion events, because it is unlikely that you will be getting off the couch again.
Do end the night with Sex Sent Me to the ER.
BECAUSE IT IS A MIRACLE OF TELEVISION. IT IS THE PINNACLE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION. IT MAY BE OUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT EVER. This is probably my drunk brain speaking, but who could hate a show that gave us this?
I realize this last tip really has nothing to do with reunions, as I pretty much ran away from most events by 8 p.m., and was asleep in front of Sex Sent Me to the ER a few hours later. As a final word, though college reunions may feel like the worst when you’re anticipating and then participating in them, the truth is, it doesn’t really matter. Worst case scenario, you’ll have a fun anecdote or tale of caution to share.
Seriously though, don’t drink scotch at 2 p.m. You’re not Don Draper. You’re barely a Liz Lemon.