Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Time for the Real Conversations -- At Last

A few days from now, we will finally engage in real, face-to-face "Conversations" at the big (we hope) 30th reunion. We have a couple of sessions planned -- one on Friday evening to get things started and a final send-off on Sunday morning.

I have a feeling, after compiling your Class Notes the past five years, that there is a lot left for us to say. The story that first came together in the 25th reunion book has continued to play out in the quarterly Notes installments since. Life changes abound -- career switches, spiritual transformations, divorces, new marriages, relocations, kids to college, new babies (believe or not), and sad passings.

Amid the change, I have been left to wonder -- what has this 30-year investment of ours amounted to? If our diplomas were mortgages, we'd be burning them. And hoping to be "free and clear." But the changes suggest we're nowhere near finished. What have these Amherst-sown "lives of distinction" produced? What more is there to do?

We have pursued our careers in medicine, the law, the media, government and business, while the world has gotten more complicated, less livable, less equitable, less compassionate. Did we take our eye off the ball? Weren't we supposed to save the world? Perhaps we focus on our own little worlds just to find some comfort and running room.

And then the change consumes (distracts) us.

Did the world expect more from us? Did we expect more from ourselves? Let’s talk about it. Are we happy? Are we too hard on ourselves? Which is it?

Have we challenged ourselves enough? Have we pursued our ideals or simply settled for success? Do we have enough left, after a 30-year investment, to challenge ourselves to do something bigger and-or better?

Some topics:

Perspective. How has our view of the world – and our place in it – changed, or not, in 30 years?

Love and marriage.

Family.

Work vs. Fun.

Retirement.

Health in middle age. Physical and mental.

Religion in middle age. Reason vs. Faith.

Death. Three stories since the 25th.

Amherst. What did it really mean? Did it propel us, inspire us, or just label us?

Am I being provocative enough? Come prepared to air it out. See you all soon.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Eitan Fenson said...

Jim (and other classmates):

Alas, I have had a critical last-minute obligation come up and, being in California, can't work out the logistics to make it to the reunion. This is a disappointment for me, and I regret not being there, particularly since my daughter Zoe, who will start at Amherst as a freshman this fall, was excited to accompany me as well.

I'll miss reconnecting with all of you, but I hope to make it to the 35th.

Eitan

11:33 AM  
Blogger Jim Kennedy said...

Relaying an e-mailed comment from Peter Alfvin:

Hi Jim,

I'm still unable to attend in person, but appreciate your efforts in all this. California is wonderful, but Amherst remains quite a ways away.

I don't know whether the our reunion numbers are still at record lows or not. The blog participation was certainly disappointing, although I guess not surprising. It would be interesting to know how may people were "reading and not participating" vs. "not reading" and if they're reading and not participating, whether that's because they don't care, feel shy, are too busy, etc. You're clearly trying hard to foster a sense of community and I think it's a noble goal, but I'm sensing that rather than expanding the communities that existed during our Amherst days, we're at best just tapping some of the pre-existing ones.

In any event, I was wondering if you'd considering recording the conversations. Doing a live broadcast and/or call-in is probably not worth the effort, but perhaps if people could listen to folks talk, they might be inspired to subsequently make more of a connection, whether through the Internet or the next reunion. A video would be even sweeter, but I assume would be beyond anyone's interest/capability to generate. I know any form of recording might be a damper of sorts on people's willingness to participate, but I thought I'd ask.

Pete

8:43 PM  
Blogger Jim Kennedy said...

Relaying an e-mail note from Peter Trinkaus:

Jim

Thanks for the personal touch. Your efforts are very much appreciated. I’ve got the “hot seat” in the ICU Memorial Day weekend so I’m stuck out here Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I may try to make the first three days and fly back Friday. So what’s my news? Obviously I can’t seem to make up my mind about which coast I want to live on – California to Philadelphia to California to New York to California … Actually it’s my wife who can’t make up her mind and being a good husband I just do what she says. Damn, though, I hate changing jobs at 50! Marty’s joined a start-up and is making an implantable device that essentially gives internal (intracranial) ECT – right to the brain, sometimes even inside the brain! Pretty damn amazing thing. Pretty damn amazing that anyone would get one of those implanted also! For those who care it’s primarily an epilepsy treatment device at this time but… If this thing works out I may not need to worry so much about changing jobs anymore. If it doesn’t well at least it’s sunny here. My kids - we’ve got three, Emily, 16, Sam, 11, and Maddy, 8 – are settling in and making friends and all that but they still are mad as hell that we moved them away from New York. My 11-year-old says everyone is too nice out here. “No one has any personality. They’re all boring. At least in New York you know what people think about you”! I think he’ll come to get used to everyone being so nice, though. One thing I am surprised to find that I miss is the crowded sidewalks! When we first moved to New York I couldn’t stand the jostling but it actually grows on you. I also miss my old job at Columbia attending in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of The Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York Presbyterian (God what a name!). We had a team and we had a great time. Stanford’s an exciting place and all with lots of unusual and challenging patients but there is no team spirit! We all just get our work done and get on with our lives afterward. I hope this is enough info for the blog. If I can figure it out I’ll get out there for the start of the reunion. Take care and thanks again for tour efforts to keep us in touch.

Peter

8:45 PM  
Blogger Jim Kennedy said...

An e-mail note to say he's coming from Roger Coy, all the way from Seattle:

Jim:

I trust all is well with you and your family. Many thanks to you and Grant for doing a great job in marshaling the troops for our 30th, and yes: another 5 years is a helluva long time to wait to see the College, not to mention our classmates, again. My wife (Annette) and I will be in attendance and look forward to joining in the festivities. While the distance to Amherst is a bit further now then when we lived in New Jersey (we relocated to Seattle about two years ago) through my memories and news from the College, I remain as close as if I had never left.

Keep up the good work; I think you'll be surprised at the ultimate turnout.

Regards,

Roger E. Coy

8:46 PM  
Blogger David Kirkpatrick said...

Yeah, I have to admit to lurking and not posting here. I suspect others have been as well.

I second the notion that Jim has done a superb job despite minimal visible feedback. You are appreciated, Jim.

I also suspect we're about to have a great and sizable reunion. Word is at least 70 guys (and a couple gals? at least you, Carol) will be there. Interesting that I feel more sentimental about Amherst with every passing year. The progressive diminishment of my once-dearly-held rebelliousness, perhaps. Or maybe just seeking anchors as, like Jim says, the world gets weirder and weirder.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Henry Boom said...

Jim

Sorry, I won't be there. Will be attending a cousin's wedding in Holland instead. Bride and groom were peacekeepers in Bosnia/Macedonia-should be interesting. Can echo Dave Kirkpatrick's comment about snooping around your monologue blog (looks like it is finally heating up) and thank you for introducing me to the blogger world.

The Shaker Heights Amherst '75 commune will be represented by Jamie Stoller. He can fill you in on all our secrets, angst and joys. After living next door to one another for 17 years few secrets remain. My Kate and Jamie's Jake, both 15+, continue to have a remarkeable friendship, that allows our families to stay close and have lots of fun together. My son Alexander, seduced by the West, will attend UC Santa Cruz. He doesn't suffer from his father's type A personality disorder and thus should have a great time!

Just one pedestrian thought for your discussion. As I watch time pass at a lightening pace (30 years-you got to be kidding), humor, denial and a touch of carpe diem remain my essential ingredients for daily survival.

Have a great time.

Henry

1:44 PM  

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