Struggling into Union Station with heavy bags on each arm, circulation ceasing in my wrists, I tiredly said "dinner for just one." I said it as if I was apologizing, or maybe I was saddened that my company from the weekend prior would not be joining me. But to my great surprise the maitre d' smiled warmly and said , "Not just one. One is as significant as one hundred." That resonated with me. I proudly ate quietly, alone. One is just as significant as one hundred.
"It's been so long since last we met..." That was the beginning of our Fight Song as students at Georgetown and after attending my five year reunion, I realize now it will be my fight song indefinitely. Once a Hoya, always a Hoya. Groups of older individuals gathered excitedly, impeccably dressed in Lilly Pulitzer or Vineyard Vines (some things never change) , and they chuckled, posed for selfies in front of the John Carroll statue, and explored all the ways in which the Georgetown they had once attended changed, yet remained the same.
I was anxious to attend the reunion. I hadn't been back for any Homecoming, for whatever reason. Perhaps I feared social comparison. There was an air of competition and social climbing in the business school, I won't deny that, so I wondered how I would measure up to my peers. How would they perceive me? Do I look ok? Gosh, how vain but these were the recurring themes. I felt until recently a level of resentment towards higher learning because the world I had envisioned as a senior in college, a world of promise and opportunity, was not the world I experienced as a young professional. I realize now my blame was poorly conceived but at that point in time I felt quite lost. My professors said the world needed my gifts, they said I could make an impact, they said I could help others... I've come to a place now where I am able to do those things in a very tangible way working in the human services sector. For other young idealists entering the workforce I would say to be patient and gentle with yourself, set realistic expectations, and bring your ministry wherever you are whether it be filing paper, getting coffee, serving in the Peace Corps or presenting in the Board Room.
At the class party some insecurities bubbled to the surface despite convincing myself that I would not be affected by the same pulls of my undergraduate self. But I reconnected with my dear friend Maria who shares may values and moderate neurosis, and we navigated the space together. She helped me to blossom a little more fully that night and to embrace the experience. So did the whiskey sour. From there I saw and embraced one after another of my old acquaintances, some I had stayed in touch with and others sadly I had not. But the fervor was the same and we picked up as if no time had passed. A beautiful tradition at Georgetown is that the 50 year reunion class sponsors the 5 year reunion class party and they attend it alongside the younger people. With their generosity we were able to attend a glorious affair in the sprawling Andrew Mellon Auditorium, an opportunity not all of us could have afforded at this time in our early careers. It was a testament to the camaraderie that Georgetown has engendered and the sense of belonging a Hoya feels whether they are 25 or 65 years old. I was grateful to share compelling discussion with others, and some giddy dialogue about food, relationships, and the consistent theme of still trying to figure it all out. A few people shared wonderful words of encouragement about my writing, and commented on my spirit and energy as an undergraduate. They said I had not changed. My hair cut and smile have remained. While self esteem should come from within, these moments did make my heart feel warm. To know you have been able to make an impact, even a small one, is a beautiful gift.
I sat in on a lecture called "The Problem of God Revisited". As freshmen at a Jesuit institution religion classes are a requirement. My first class five years back being none other than "The Problem of God" was a class unlike what you would envision a religion course to be in a Catholic school. It investigated many faiths and invited the discourse of thinkers in other faith and non-faith based traditions. Classes like these have, I believe, helped to inspire tolerance and understanding while still enforcing the importance of understanding thyself and figuring out how and if faith serves personal needs. For me, my reliance on faith was reaffirmed by these words. "Mercy is the willingness to become involved in the chaos of another person." The presentor, Father Steck said this a few times for emphasis. Everyone can show mercy, regardless of your creed. The world needs mercy, desperately.
What stands out in my mind as a benefit to having received a Jesuit education is the underlying tradition to act for the Greater Glory of God, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. The invitation if not mandate to to be merciful. To find the fractured parts of the world and identify the individuals on the periphery so that we can dedicate our passion and our energy to make their burdens less.
There was a lot of love that weekend. I was pleasantly surprised to feel the same pull and enthusiasm at the Healy Gates as when I first began school. Even though my time as a student has passed, my duty as a Hoya has not. It was also comforting to know I still had a home on the Hilltop. I stayed with dear friends in Virginia and we ate at Filomena's together, the place where I met my husband. It has been years since I ate there and all of my friends greeted me with the same warmth as when I was a hostess in my cummerbund and clunky black clogs. And the food, gosh the food is still magnificent. There is love poured into every gnocco, and that is apparent. Chocolate Caramel Turtle Cheesecake. Yes.
I brunched with pals from the business school and we laughed like we hadn't in years. I wandered and ate with my darling friend who recruited me to join Best Buddies my freshman year. She has since been in my wedding and will undeniably be in my life forever more. I met a remarkable Hoya, Theresa, who was celebrating her 35th reunion. She didn't look a day over thirty but that is neither here nor there. She sat with me at a social as I was all alone and in true Hoya fashion, our worlds aligned. She works in financial planning for families of children with special needs. Her sons happen to have autism and we shared ideas about our roles, she as a mother and financial planner, me as an advocate and non-profit professional. The hilltop brought us together and I know we will share ideas and hopes for a more inclusive world in years to come.
There was shopping on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, blistered feet and purchase of new shoes, ice cream from Thomas Sweets, quiche and chai from Baked and Wired followed by a glorious cupcake from Baked and Wired, obviously. Then I ate all alone in Union Station, but one is as significant as one hundred.
Hoya Saxa, until next time Georgetown.