The Gathering

“Old friends are memories personified!”
-R.P. Evans

The emails read something like this, “Jerry, as always, thanks for putting this outing together!  It’s one of the few times we get to see this gang of misfits all in one group……this must be a labor of love because I see all the work you put in, to give all of us a great day of golf and a way to continue exacerbating some of the stories of yesteryear.  I look forward to every event you’ve scheduled and look forward more to seeing all the guys and recalling our great ‘Ville memories.”  This gathering of old friends is called the “Renegade Golf Outing” and has become something of a traditional fall event.  It’s has also become a way of appreciating the value of old friendships.

The “Renegades” are a group of roughly 75 guys who, some fifty years ago, spent four years of their lives together.  While attending college, we reveled in the great times (fraternity parties, athletic events , etc.) and consoled each other when things got rough (the break-up, maddening parents or a failed exam).  And it was during this brief period in our lives that we formed very special friendships which have spanned the years.  What makes them so special?  These friends function as a connection to our past, to earlier versions of ourselves and memories that contain important insights that we may have forgotten.

In the company of old friends, we are reminded of the ports in which we docked while on this life’s journey.  It is through our old friends that we gain a new perspective.  We get to see how we have grown, and are reminded of what was once painful, what mattered, or what we have forgotten that we deeply enjoyed.  In essence it is our old friends who serve as guardians of the memories on which we might otherwise have a fragile grip.

As a social species, we have a strong need for close friends.  We feel more grounded when we have a sense of belonging, of being deeply appreciated by people we care for.  For many of us, the college experience was our first extended time away from home, away from our family.  During those four years we found family in those who became our friends.  We celebrated together and we mourned together.  We also matured together, and it was many of my old friends who helped shape the person I’ve become.  You see, it is our old friends who help us remember what it was like not to be who we are now.

A recent Harvard University study has shown that one of the most salient elements determining the quality of one’s life is the maintenance of long-term friendships.  While they may seem to have fully evolved, like anything else of value, friendships need to be continually cultivated and nurtured.  As the years progress, the wisdom that comes with age reminds us that even our best friendships usually change into memories.  The good news is that the emotions that define these memories are easily re-awakened with even infrequent contact.

Communicating with old friends can enrich our lives by bringing our pasts into the present, reminding us of who we were and how we became what we are.  I’m already looking forward to the gathering next year.  Who knows, maybe the secret of who I am yet to become will be revealed through a conversation with an old friend.

Embrace an Old Friend

Embrace the Challenge