A reunion is a tricky thing for an introvert. I went to my 25th Earlham College reunion this past weekend with some trepidation: I’ve been feeling tired lately, and autumn is generally a time I like to hunker down in as much solitude as possible. It’s a fertile time for me creatively, but not always socially. As well, I’ve been back to Earlham quite a bit in the past few years, to visit an old professor-friend and spend time writing and talking and talking about books on his couch. So being back on campus itself wasn’t so much of a draw.
Still, Julie — who is, if not a full-blown extrovert, much more of one than I am — really wanted to go (we met and started dating at Earlham). A bunch of her outdoorsy pals were going to be there, she was taking her bike, they were going to have a blast. I somewhat reluctantly decided to go too, and figured if it got to be too much, I would just escape to the library or one of my other old study haunts, and write. Or sleep.
And it was a lot. I feel introvert-overload as an inability to focus and a pressure — not pain, but pressure — pressing from the inside of my head out. As though all the muscles in my face are tensed, stretched taut. And that happened quite a bit Saturday, when there wasn’t much structured going on, and not a lot to think about to take my mind off it, and a sea of people with whom I might at any moment need to make small talk.
Then I saw that one of my classmates had published a book and was giving a talk at 2:00. A lecture seemed like a perfect escape, and it was. My classmate is now a professor of sociology, and was talking on a topic I am interested in, and he’s very smart (as are most of my Earlham Classmates; we were a smart bunch). It was a perfect break, and even better, I spent some time chatting with him after his talk. I hadn’t really known him when we were classmates, but now I have a new friend.
And it wasn’t just him. This is one of the things that I always forget when I’m dreading going to a reunion: I think it’s going to be awful having to make lots of small talk with people I happened to go to school with but don’t really know, and instead what happens is I make a few new friends with people I happened to go to school with but don’t really know. The same phenomenon happened when I first joined Facebook. I thought I would never be one of those people who had friends they didn’t really know in real life, but as it turns out, I have a small handful of college friends with whom I’m now closer (in real life, as well as on Facebook) than we were when we were in college. Note to self: don’t forget that next reunion! (I’ve already learned the lesson with Facebook, and now accept all friend requests except clear creeps.)
But the best part of the reunion was dancing, which is possibly the very best way for an introvert to spend a lot of time with a large group of people. We were a dancing bunch when we were in college, and that is one thing that has not changed at all in 25 years. And how fabulous is it that we could instantly download all our old favorites and play them as they occurred to us? Free Nelson Mandela, Pull Up to the Bumper, What I Like About You, Word Up, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Tainted Love, Burning Down the House, Vogue, Nasty Add It Up, Gett Off, Kiss, Should I Stay or Should I Go, Rock Lobster….. I have such clear memories of dancing to exactly these songs, with exactly those people, a group for whom I feel such fondness, collectively. Dancing the night away was the perfect way to celebrate that fondness, to reenact it. And there was nothing sentimental or overly nostalgic about it — I would go dancing every weekend with this crew!
What a great bunch of people I am so honored to be a part of. It really was a re-union; we meant something to one another 25 years ago, and turns out we still do. I’m so so glad I went.