“As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do” — Zachery Scott
Last weekend I found myself in Montreal to attend the 40th anniversary reunion of the MSW graduating class at McGill University. The invitation to this reunion had arrived several months ago.
There were no second thoughts about attending. The reunion offered a great excuse for a trip to Montreal, one of the most vibrant cities in Canada. More importantly, the reunion also offered an opportunity to re-connect with people who had shared the youthful aspirations of the early 70’s culture when we were determined that we could change the world.
This reunion was especially significant for me as both my husband and I graduated in the class of 1971. Attending together rekindled memories of our early married life as well as the carefree days at graduate school.
Carpe Diem — Seize the Day
Postworksavvy readers know that time is precious. Some life events won’t happen more than once. This is the time when we recognize that life must be lived without settling for regrets. Occasions to re-connect may never come again.
Attending a reunion is a wonderful way to be transported back to a former time. It allows for nostalgia; it provides time for remembering what mattered to you in the past; and it provides new information to assess the changes you have made during your journey. Such experiences can help us to make sense of our current reality by connecting the present with the past.
This reunion had the typical university reunion agenda — a welcome reception held by a distinguished professor at her beautiful home; a pub crawl to drink and eat at the Post Graduate Student Society where many had spent too much time during student days; a campus tour to rediscover favourite haunts; a luncheon and reception held by the Director of the McGill School of Social Work to receive updates about new programs and other School activities; a fun dinner in a famous Old Montreal restaurant, and a closing brunch where good-byes brought tears along with resolutions to have another reunion before too many years pass.
While the agenda may sound ‘ho-hum’ for those not in attendance, it was exciting for me. I daresay this was the case for others who attended because incessant banter, stories, and laughter characterized the weekend. Each event offered a new venue to re-connect with the McGill experience, to reminisce, and to re-live those youthful memories.
We updated each other about career trajectories, families, and other accomplishments. We took time to remember two deceased classmates. Blackberries hummed with email greetings from classmates who could not attend.
Each of the events had its highlights. At the welcome reception, boisterous greetings affirmed the value of face-to-face meetings. There were difficulties recognizing some of the faces as everyone had matured and aged.
The luncheon at the School of Social Work provided an opportunity to walk again through the hallways and classrooms. We appreciated the swag — beautiful McGill mugs and engraved pens.
Throughout the weekend we exchanged stories and enjoyed getting to know each other once again. The common bond of the McGill experience was repeatedly recognized. From the professional updates it was clear that the MSW degree and the post-graduate learning had provided a foundation for many successful careers — in social work as well as in other related and unrelated pursuits.
Reflections on Attending the Reunion
Living 40 years changes you. Everyone at the reunion was a different person than when we were together as students. Although there was not enough time for deep conversation with each person, the personal updates indicated that social work education had provided a point of departure for a rich professional careers. Many youthful aspirations had been actualized. Most people found their lives had taken unexpected, yet positive, turns.
During the weekend, we affirmed past relationships and renewed friendships. We reflected on how a common educational experience had influenced our lives — personally and professionally — in the variety of life choices that each person had made.
I never planned that attending this reunion would provide an opportunity to re-discover parts of myself. Seeing so many people from the past brought a rush of emotions and memories. It was exhausting — both physically and emotionally.
I realized how my career had been shaped by the richness of the training at McGill — in terms of clinical knowledge, knowledge of community development, and a broad understanding of social policy. Those student days incubated my life-long devotion to issues of social justice and fairness. The reunion made me realize the importance of staying faithful to these commitments while pursuing the postworksavvy life in retirement.
As I write this post I wonder what emotions and memories were stirred for each person who attended. I delight in the knowledge that people have lived positive lives while making significant contributions in their professional careers. I am proud to be a McGill graduate but take more pride in the many accomplishments of my colleagues in 1971 graduating class in their respective careers. And I’m glad that I didn’t miss the reunion.