Life lessons from the 30 year reunion

Deborah Copaken, a writer at the Atlantic, shared a beautiful note about lessons she learnt at her 30 year reunion.

I think the magic of this note is that it inadvertently touches on many contradictions – money matters but it can’t be the main thing, love isn’t everything but it helps a lot, diversity is important even if supporting it means going against yourself, and an appreciate of life often requires an acceptance of death.

In doing so, it reminds us of the importance of making peace with the many opposing forces that come together to make this life.

Here are a few notes from her that resonated deeply.


Every classmate who became a teacher or doctor seemed happy with the choice of career.

They say money can’t buy happiness, but in an online survey of our class just prior to the reunion, those of us with more of it self-reported a higher level of happiness than those with less.

Our strongest desire, in that same pre-reunion class survey—over more sex and more money—was to get more sleep.

Many of our class’s shyest freshmen have now become our alumni class leaders, helping to organize this reunion and others.

Nearly all the alumni said they were embarrassed by their younger selves, particularly by how judgmental they used to be.

No matter what my classmates grew up to be—a congressman, like Jim Himes; a Tony Award–winning director, like Diane Paulus; an astronaut, like Stephanie Wilson—at the end of the day, most of our conversations at the various parties and panel discussions throughout the weekend centered on a desire for love, comfort, intellectual stimulation, decent leaders, a sustainable environment, friendship, and stability.

Those of us who’d experienced the trauma of near death—or who are still facing it—seemed the most elated to be at reunion. “We’re still here!” I said to my friend, who used to run a health company and had a part of the side of his face removed when his cancer, out of nowhere, went haywire. We were giggling, giddy as toddlers, practically bouncing on our toes, unable to stop hugging each other and smiling as we recounted the gruesome particulars of our near misses.

I can hold both of these truths—diversity is good; the roots of diversity in the admissions process were prejudiced against my own people—and not only still be able to function but also to see that sometimes good results can come from less-than-good intentions.


Powerful – thank you for sharing Deborah.

PS: To everyone who came here from Seth’s blog post yesterday, welcome! One of the wonderful side effects of writing here for the last ten years is getting to know you and hearing from you on your reflections. The hope is that you find that often elusive mix of content that has you smiling and nodding occasionally, shaking your head in disagreement every once a while, and enabling you to reflect more often than not. I hope you find that.

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