Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Difference a Quarter of a Century Makes

The first time I saw the movie The Big Chill, I was in college. Being in the midst of those heady days of intimate relationships with those whose lives overlapped my own minute by minute, it was easy for me to believe not only in the depth of connection the main characters shared, but in the implication that nothing better had ever come along. When Glenn Close's character said that she'd been the best she ever was back in those days, with those friends, it seemed only natural to me. College was, after all, the best time of your life, right? That's the way it looked to me, sitting in the Student Center movie theater watching The Big Chill for a dollar. That's what seemed to be suggested by authors like Anton Myrer and Erich Segal. That's what my friends and I anticipated when we camped out on the bridge on a starlit night or drank wine coolers from 2-liter bottles by the lagoon and sang old Supremes and Van Morrison songs to one another. It was the underlying assumption in the writings I so carefully preserved from those days, the descriptions of the moments I'd never want to forget.

At 19, I thought the way those characters came back together and the things they shared were romantic and touching. In some ways, they were. But at 44, Glenn Close's line made me sad. Not, as it might have made me sad the first time through, with nostalgia for those lovely lost days, but because with a quarter of a century of additional life experience under my belt, it struck me as tragic that a woman in her mid-thirties would have peaked during her college days (or even feel that she had).

I loved college, and I had an amazing group of interesting, eclectic, talented and supportive friends whose influence in my life I will always cherish. But I was just beginning when I spent those long winter afternoons in the dorm with them, talking about art and philosophy and politics. I was just beginning to learn how to do something about the things I believed, and the things I saw as most important in those days were informed in part by a lack of information. I like to think that I'm the best I've ever been with my daughter; I like to think the best I'll ever be has yet to come.

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