Monday, March 16, 2015

You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan, and the next five years trying to be with your friends again.

Lately, there has been quite a bit of news and media attention about the Greek system in American colleges and universities, all of it negative.  Campus rapes.  Hazing.  Racism.  Under the articles about these incidents, I frequently see comments from people who question whether the time has come for fraternities and sororities to be abolished.  And even though I was in a sorority in college, I understand their points.

Being in a sorority involves going through a grueling weeks-long rush process. I didn't even understand how brutal it was until I was on the other side and participating in all-night sessions in which the social fate of some poor girl, and whether we would deign to include her in our group, was put to a vote, based on notes that we all made after talking to her for 5 minutes ("Blue skirt with bird-shaped pin - seemed awkward and uncomf., too much makeup, kind of boring - loser" "Red dress, blond, from Seattle - funny story abt summ. camp. Cute, smart - YES").

Every year there were tears and fights over who was invited back and who wasn't.  Every year we gained weight from midnight pizza and sub runs to make up for the fact that during 3 hours of parties, we had only eaten popcorn.  Every year I got bronchitis. It was fucking miserable, and it made me feel mean and awful and occasionally ashamed to be part of such a judge-y, superficial endeavor.

And yet.

And yet, I made incredible friends.  Friends with whom I am still extremely close, with whom I communicate almost every day.  Friends who I always make time to see when I am in their hometown, and vice-versa.  Friends here in the Denver/Boulder area.

Incredibly, there are six of us who were all at UVA together at the same time, from the classes of '91, '92 and '93.  We meet up for dinner as often as we can, but not as often as we'd like, because everyone is busy with jobs or kids or husbands or just the general business of being grown-ups.  My friend Stacy does Beachbody stuff with me.  My friend Christin and I ski and climb mountains together.  My friend Karen comes over for Passover seder.

Karen and Cathy co-own a cabin up in Winter Park, right by the Winter Park ski resort.  This past weekend, five of us were able to spend Friday night up there and then ski together all day Saturday. We hung out watching basketball, eating dinner, getting caught up on each other's lives, and enjoying the company of old friends.  And then the next day, we had one of the most glorious days of skiing I've ever had.
The weather was beyond perfect.  Bright blue, cloudless sky without a hint of breeze, with a high of about 40.  Even up at the very top of the mountain, above the tree line (about 11,000 feet), I was so warm that I skied in just a turtleneck sweater and a down vest, and most of the day I skied without my gloves.  We are all at different levels of proficiency, but we mostly skied together and cheered each other on and chatted endlessly on the chair lift.  I felt so grateful to have these wonderful women in my life.
We talked about how young and unformed we were when we met, at an age when we were still figuring out who we were and what we wanted out of life.  But even as silly, naive 18-year-olds, it turns out we had amazing taste in friends.  As Christin put it, "I have retrospective faith in our 18-year-old selves." So however skeptically I look back on the sorority experience as a whole, or in the abstract, I cannot deny that it brought me some of the best people I've ever met.
The Fraser Valley and surrounding mountains, as seen from the top of Winter Park.  I feel sorry for people who will never see this view in person.
We skied until the lifts shut down, happy and tired and with quads pleasantly sore.  I know I gush about how great it is to live here, but I can't really say it enough.  To have such terrific experiences with good friends, being outside in the sunshine and fresh air, exercising and feeling healthy, in some of the most beautiful mountains on earth -- it's pretty hard to beat.

These experiences are what matter.  This is what we relish even as we look back and wonder where the time went and how could we possibly be in our mid-forties with kids and careers and mortgages and husbands (or in my case, a divorce).  I feel this at my India and Israel reunions as well- that sense of recapturing youth by maintaining these lifelong friendships.

We're already planning on doing it again next year.

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