Hope you got a chance to look at us. Graceful. Elegant. Well-dressed. Clean. What a contrast with what we were like in the late 1960s: Long, stringy hair; everyone in blue jeans and clogs. We were a fractious, disagreeable lot. Couldn't get a quorum for breakfast. Yet we got nearly 60 of us back for reunion. We did a class survey -- with essay questions, and it sure revealed some contrasts between us now and then. How we've changed!
A love for the great outdoors shows up a lot now. That's quite interesting -- considering that the closest many of us got to nature during college years were the pigeons flapping and cooing in the interior eaves of the old library, now called Thomas. Other outdoor activities were restricted to rock concerts and marches on Washington.
And get this: exercise is stressed. We're now hiking and kayaking, playing tennis, squash and golf. Yikes! Running 25 miles a week. And Wow! a couple of us are actually swimming. Can you believe it?! "Hon" Yeager couldn't get us out of bed in the morning to take the required relaxation class, for heaven's sake. Our swim team comprised a lot of chain smokers. And I, for one, was surprised to learn recently, that the lovely meadows behind Rhoads were actually playing fields.
We're all still reading everything we can lay hands on for relaxation, escape, and information. Aha, though! Trashy novels were mentioned in several responses. Curiously, no one volunteered particular titles, though they certainly listed plenty of loftier tomes. No matter. I've probably read them all anyway.
Okay, so we've changed a little.
The most frequently cited producer of joy in our lives now is children, and we have lots of them. Indeed, many of us wish we had more. (Do you remember what our parents thought of us when we were their age?)
We also get joy from our work, our gardens, music and - I've got to say it, sex. Some things haven't changed since the late '60s. Thank goodness.
The loudest lament was over the juggle of home and work life. Hardly anyone feels she's done it to satisfaction. "I just can't do it all," sighs one. "Not everything needs to be done perfectly," another has decided. Still, "It should be possible," says one die-hard. "I just haven't figured out how to do it."
Regrets? Not taking more adventures before moving on to grad school, marriage and children.
What's happened to us in our careers? A surprising number have gotten drawn into business. Unexpected, given the distinctly anti-business sentiment of our day. Remember how we pilloried the Military-Industrial Complex? Now we're sort of it, working for IBM, banks, utilities. ... The big numbers, of course, are in academics and all aspects of health care - as doctors, vets, psychiatrists, dentists, social workers, clinicians. ... We characterized the working world as "gratifying," "fulfilling," "engaging," and credited it with providing "more opportunity for creativity than imagined." Others of us, though, complained of banality, stupidity, and incompetence. Some of us see it both ways.
Despite loaded schedules, many of us make time for significant community involvements: League of Women Voters, Sunday school teaching, PTA, choir. These are voluntary. Matters of the spirit now beguile many of us. One business leader has just quit that career in order to investigate Jungian analysis, and is off to Zurich. Several have become more committed Christians, while another finds real fulfillment in an Indian ashram. Many say, simply, that they are pursuing the "more spiritual side of life."
The "just do it" spirit of the responsible Bryn Mawr woman is typified by this classmate's story:
Judy, a full-time journalist, wife and mother, decided it was important to send her daughters to a conservative Jewish middle school. St. Louis didn't have one. Well then, why not get one started? She looked around for someone to get the ball rolling - someone experienced in education, planning and fund-raising. Not finding one, Judy, juggling career and family, became IT. For two years, she did whatever it took: she ran for and took a public office, joined the school board, worked the phone and faxes, attended conferences. And the Schechter Middle School was open in time for her second daughter. It was the hardest - and most satisfying thing she'd ever done.
In typical Bryn Mawr fashion she confesses: "I guess I should have deferred to people who knew what they were doing. But I'm not that patient."
Patience. Ah yes. The most valuable skill many classmates said they've acquired over the years. Also persistence. And the ability to really listen to others. Other skills crop up, including public-speaking and, predictably, computer literacy.
Among the most influential people in our lives we count our teachers and fellow students here at Bryn Mawr. And of course, Pat McPherson. She is heralded most often as a person we really respect and want to be like. You know that she really belongs to our class! She was our freshman dean, then our senior dean. Bryn Mawr friends are, for many, our most special. ... "Absolutely special" and "enduring" describe the ties that bind us to one another in our class.
What makes us feel successful? A lot of little things. A job well done. "Achievement of a definable goal." A garden. That one's child has been asked to speak at his high school graduation, while another succeeds in climbing Mt. Rainier. How often do we feel successful? "Every once in a while," is most often offered.
So what's 25 years? .... We've wised up some. And, we hope, given each other more help and inspiration this weekend. But our plan ... is to keep our outlook youngish, our interests eclectic, and to feel about the same as we did at 22.
-- Sheila Cunningham '72, Reunion Class Speaker
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