Recently, I attended my 50th high school reunion. I had mixed emotions trying to catch up with folks who looked like their own grandparents.
I recognized more names than faces, but after a few words I remembered events and interactions when we were all teenagers exploding with hopes and potential. Once I got past my own sense of disbelief, I rather enjoyed consorting with people who were the very landscape of my youth.
There were about 600 people in our graduating class, and I knew less than half. One classmate did an extraordinary job of tracking down the current addresses of missing classmates, and another did a huge amount of work to elicit personal biographies that revealed how each life had become a separate stream going in directions that none of us anticipated. Surely, not a single person in my class or my family would have predicted I’d end up running a nonprofit ethics institute and have a radio platform to talk about my life and thoughts.
A new phase of the aging experience started with a jolt yesterday, after I received an e-mail including a list of 71 classmates known to have passed away. The list included girls I’d kissed and friends I played basketball with and told about the girls I’d kissed. It included nice guys and bullies, smart kids and slow ones, pretty gals and plain ones – death had no preference.
This was pretty conclusive evidence that my past is dying and my generation’s expiration date is fast approaching.
I still have so much to do. I refuse to darken my future with fear or despair. I do, however, intend to experience all that is left with passionate intensity.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.