Yesterday Phil and I were walking by Joe Jasinski's house and on a whim we decided to ring the doorbell and see if he was there, which it turned out, he was.
Joe and I have known each other since we were 3 years old and going to the same Park District summer activities. I think one or two years we were even in the same swimming lessons. We went to the same schools until college and were in 5 of the 6 same elementary school classes. We had mostly the same friends but as I think on it, it is strange. Joe and I have always been friends as far back as I remember - indeed I cannot remember a time when I didn't know him. But we were never especially close and as I think on some of the mutual friends we had (Andy Stawarski, Mark and Brian Buchna, Ross and Joe Ringenberg) it seems to me that we were both closer to the mutual friends than to each other. We live only two blocks from each other yet never spent considerable time together outside of school and the walking to and from said place. As I think on it there really is no particular reason why. I always had the greatest respect for him as a person but for whatever reason he never became one of those people I always called; yet at the same time, he has always been there and I know he is as conscious of that weight of time between us as I am. He even wrote in my yearbook Senior year "How do I say goodbye to someone I've known since before kindergarden?" Well, I suppose its as John Mayer says, if you never stop when you wave goodbye you just might find if you give it time that you'll wave hello again.
Talking with Joe was a trip down memory lane as he dug out both yearbook and elementary school class photos to ask about thus and such a person and we shared whom we had seen recently. This probably was the major impetus for my dreams last night concerning school graduations and such. It made me pause to think about some things concerning "the best time in our lives". Some people say there isn't anything they wouldn't give to get back one day of high school or college. I don't particularly feel that way but at times I have a sense of longing for those days and perhaps the idea that I would like to figure out how to infuse today with whatever made that special. What is it about high school and college that calls us and begs reminiscense?
I think there are possibly as many answers as there are people who miss those days. But I think a couple of things are true for most people. No matter what you were actually doing, life then seemed to have direction and purpose. It was going somewhere to some sort of logical achievement and that sense of worthwhile and directed purpose certainly seems missing from many people's lives after graduation. More than that however, I think that what high school and college are really about is the formation of community. At least in the (admittedly above average) schools I went to, the sense of fellowship, togetherness, spirit, camraderie, whatever you want to call it, permeated the hallways, the assemblys, the classrooms. At North Central they went to great pains to instill a sense of community in the freshman classes by forcing us to interact with one another across majors and dorms, which in the end resulted in me knowing virtually every person in my normal B.A./B.S. 4-year graduating class by name and most of them by sight as well.
When you leave the school confines and enter the workplace there is no longer an emphasis on community unless you are fortunate to wind up on the other side of an educational institution. Work is about results and supervisors and bosses are not there to see that you are learning and force you to think critically and expand your mind. Some good workplaces may instill a sense of team or camraderie but it is not the same as being surrounded by people who are sleeping, eating and breathing the same experience as you, where regardless of GPA or Student Government position, your classmates are still on essentially equal ground and it really is possible for you to all win or lose together.
I think that is why now everyone I know from school seems to be sharing in that sudden sentimentality that has made people I hadn't talked to in years friend me on facebook and myspace. Those times are gone but by reconnecting with the community as much as possible. It necessary in order to remind ourselves that it was not all a dream. I know for my part, as years pass I tend to remember only the good things, only the very occasional horrific bad things that in memory take on a humorous quality and so lose their power to disturb. I sense this is true with others from my class and thus it does give me some slight hope that people are truly good on the inside, just in need of something after school is over that can connect them all together.