This weekend is my college reunion. I never even seriously considered going and I don’t really know why. I’ve gone to past reunions and had a good time. Plus, this year I’ve really said “yes” to so many things that it seems odd that I said no to this one.
I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville and I have a lot of ambivalence about my college years. I made some great friends and I had some great experiences, but Vanderbilt was a very conservative place (probably still is) and it was also very heavily Greek: roughly 50% of students pledged a sorority or fraternity. I was the only girl on my freshman hall who didn’t pledge a sorority and I was the only girl on my freshman hall who had gone to a public high school.
I remember feeling a little shellshocked that first year. I came from a nice middle class background and nothing prepared for the kids with money that I met at Vanderbilt. One of my friends never wore the same outfit twice. One acquaintance was so devastated that she didn’t get picked to join the snobbiest sorority that her father sent the private jet to whisk her and three friends away to the Caribbean for the weekend.
Vanderbilt was the type of place where if a boy hadn’t asked you to Saturday’s football game by Tuesday, you couldn’t say yes after after that because you needed to play hard to get. And if you were going to the football game, girls wore dresses and boys wore jackets and ties. No kidding. It was the ‘80s, but it felt like the ‘50s.
On the plus side, I got a good education but I wish I’d applied myself more. I also spent my junior year abroad in Germany, which was one of the best years of my life and is something every college kid should do. It changed my world view. It was the single most important thing I did in college to shape who I am today. Well, maybe the second most important. I also interned at Billboard. I majored in political science and the plan was to be a foreign correspondent. But I loved music just as much. I went to the Career Planning and Placement Service and a wonderful woman there named Kathryn Smith thought she might be able to find me an internship at Billboard. The music magazine had always gotten its interns from Belmont College, a music-oriented school, before but had just had an intern from Billboard and loved her, so Mrs. Smith thought they might be open to another. They were and I interned there my sophomore and senior years in college. They didn’t have a space to hire me right after I graduated, but my time there led directly to my working for Billboard a short time later.
Various friends have been emailing me and posting stuff on Facebook about the reunion and I feel sad that I’m not there, but it’s more that I feel sad that I’m not with them, not that I’m not on campus. Plus, I go back to Nashville often enough that I usually go by the school enough times to see how much it’s expanded, especially the medical school.
But since I’m thinking about my alma mater tonight and raising a glass to my friends who are there, tonight’s $10 goes to Vanderbilt.