Part of what makes me crazy – the part that drives me to write – is that I hear people’s voices even years after they have spoken to me. Say for instance, people I once went to school with.
The last adventure of my “season of professional freedom” came to its fruition last night in Buffalo, as I caught up with 17 or so other members of my eighth-grade graduating class. Forty years later, our homeroom was able to gather all but a few stragglers to hear how our stories turned out. We met in a few locations scattered throughout the country, connected by conference call.
It was an amazingly rich experience: to talk with people who at one time, were the world to me; my peers and friends; puppy-love rivals and classroom competitors; people whose voices are part of a menagerie of audio sounds that have accumulated in my head over the years.
Now these people are once again, if only briefly, my fellow time-travelers. Forty years later, I am so very proud to be a part of a team of kids who pushed one another and made one another better through the years, even though many of us might have lost touch with one another for a long time.
The adults in our world told us that we were “special;” we were pulled out of various city neighborhoods to something akin to what today would be called a “gifted and talented” program. Our adults made it clear that ‘more’ was expected from us. Other kids snickered. Sometimes, all of that hurt.
Some of us were inseparable for a long time, like the handful of girls who went on to four more years of “sisterhood” at the same girls’ high school. Two of those girls ended up in Boston, lifelong friends and neighbors – how cool is that! Some of us, in contrast, struck out in our own direction from the very first year of high school. Now, we’ve collectively been all over the world on an amazing variety of life missions. I suspect that all of us have experienced times of deep challenge. Last night’s stories, as we caught each other up, couldn’t have been true had it not been for adversity being overcome.
And, I am still crazy. As I explained to one of the guys a few days before the reunion, I never lost the voices of this group in my head. Through the years I heard these familiar voices encourage me through difficulties, motivate me to improve, challenge me to learn and to grow.
Every so often this summer I heard an unknown voice saying, “The economy’s bad; quit traveling like a Bohemian and find your next professional engagement!” But I think we human beings express our lives through our relationships with other people. I can’t answer the question for others, but for me, it would have been even more crazy to not reconnect than to hear voices. This summer was time to pay homage to all the people who contributed to my own success (good thing I’m blessed with a wife who agrees). This reflects my belief that no one is truly “self-made;” we all owe so much to our teachers, parents, and fellow time-travelers. I owe so much to the men and women I got to hang with for one glorious night, last night.