June 12, 2017

Ten Year Reunion Weekend

This weekend was kind of crazy – but also really amazing. It was my ten year college reunion, and I headed to beautiful Ithaca, New York to celebrate with friends. I was so excited!

Far above Cayuga’s waters…

The forecast wasn’t looking good for the long weekend – rainy and a little bit cold. Fortunately, while my week working in Florida was incredibly rainy, the weather turned around massively and was absolutely perfect in Ithaca all weekend long – sunny, warm, and beautiful. The downside of this was that I had packed for cooler weather, so I ended up spending a lot more time than I would have liked in the only two sundresses I brought. Rewearing dirty clothes? Yup, I got the full college experience!

Home sweet dorm.

The reunion agenda was packed, and I took full advantage of the many activities that were scheduled. After arriving on Thursday, I went on a natural history tour led by a botany professor, walked around campus for a little while, and then attended the reception our class held that evening. I didn’t know anyone else who was arriving Thursday, but ended up meeting a lot of fantastic new people. I was expecting reunion to be all about seeing old friends, and was pleasantly surprised by how many new friends I made as well. Kind of a bummer that I hadn’t met some of these people ten years ago, but better later than never, right?

On Friday, I started the day with a law school lecture with one of those new friends: The Cloud, Metadata, Social Networking, and You: How Technology Is Changing the Practice of Law. This lecture was unfortunately one of my least favorite that I attended, as it was definitely targeted toward lawyers and wasn’t so much about trends as it was about rules for contacting clients via social media. But the next lecture I went to was excellent: Success and Luck, taught by the author of this book that I am now very eager to read. Professor Frank cited a lot of studies around how much of a role luck plays in success (as opposed to basic hard work), and in 90 minutes he managed to really shift my world view. Impressive! After the lectures, I headed back to my dorm room to sneak in a few work calls, and then got one more lecture in before the receptions started: Business Ethics and the Law. This focused on how company cultures can push people into unethical behavior (cough Uber cough), and it was neat to learn more about reducing unconscious bias. This was a pretty timely talk for me, as my company just today publicly released our Blindspots training for others to learn how to identify and reduce bias – you can check it out here if you’re interested.

From there, it was on to my own college’s reception, where I was thrilled to find that some of the career services staff somehow remembered me all these years later. It really didn’t feel like it had been ten years since I’d been a student! Funny story: I went for a quick self-tour of my school’s main building, and when I went into one of the two big lecture halls, I noticed that the seats were brand new, and wondered why they had been replaced, since they had just been installed when I was a student. And then I realized that was over a decade ago! It put things into perspective for me 😉

The hallmark of reunion, though, is always the “tent parties” – massive events on the Arts Quad where alumni of all the different classes come together. After posting a photo of the iconic clocktower on Facebook that morning, I had a partner from my first job reach out to me – turns out he was back for reunion too! Josh lives in Switzerland now but still comes back every five years for reunion, and I was really excited to toast a drink with him and catch up.

Still amazed we managed to find each other amid the thousands of people dancing in the tents.

Despite the free-flowing wine and near-total lack of sleep, I somehow managed to keep up with the run streak I started two weeks ago. I’m trying to run at least one mile a day between Memorial Day and July 4th, and using HabitBull to track exactly how many miles I do each day. So far, I’ve been sticking to it, and it’s actually it’s been easier than I expected! On Friday morning, I went for a beautiful afternoon run around Beebe Lake on North Campus – an area I hadn’t really explored much since the dorms in that area are reserved for freshman and I went to Cornell as a transfer.

Only about 1.5 miles, but I soaked in the beautiful sights every step of the way.

Saturday was a little tougher, though. As I had mentioned before, I signed up for the Reunion 5K on Saturday morning… but I didn’t quite realize just how late I’d be out on Friday (3:30am). When the race started at 8am, I don’t even think I had yet sobered up from the night before – so that made running a PR out of the question! And I wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of Friday night – there was another girl from my class who literally got sick on the side of the road during the race. I somehow finished in a still-decent 24:00, and was really glad that I had stuck to my commitment to run. If I could get through that run, I can definitely finish this streak!

Getting a great big (red) bear hug from Touchdown Bear, our mascot, pre-race.

The rest of Saturday was truly fantastic. My college held a formal breakfast with our Dean so that we could learn about the latest news with our academic program, and I got to catch up with a bunch of classmates I had lost touch with. It seems like everyone is a lawyer these days! I was the odd woman out being in consulting, but I’m pretty happy with my career, and it was fun to get to tell people about it. After the breakfast, I went for a long walk around campus with a dear friend who I hadn’t seen in years, getting to meet her husband and twins in the process, and then I hightailed it back to my dorm to shower and get ready for class… just like old times 😉

The first class I attended on Saturday was hands down the best lecture I’ve attended in years… maybe even ever. Business school professor Risa Mish gave a talk on Building Resilience, and she managed to make me both laugh and cry within the space of an hour. (Yes, I literally cried – she was that excellent of a speaker. You can watch another talk by her here.) I had just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B on the plane to Ithaca, so I was well-versed in a lot of the research, but Professor Mish taught us an approach to tough situations that was completely practical, and walked us through an interactive exercise to tame whatever stressors had been on our minds. I was pretty carefree all this weekend, but I dredged up some things I’d been worried about in the last few weeks, and she lived up to her promise of taming all of those stressors with just a few simple questions. This talk was just phenomenal, and she left me with some takeaways and clear next steps that I’ve already taken action on.

This slide outlines the approach she walked us through, but I’d argue that it’s nowhere near as powerful as the actual talk she gave.

After that amazing lecture, I thought nothing else would compete (and it did, in fact, remain the best talk of the weekend). But I still had a blast at Ken and Margie Blanchard’s Refire Your Life workshop (based on their recent book, which we were gifted at the end), and at the Women in Law forum, which discussed the challenges women can experience trying to break into partnerships at law firms. Even though I’m not a lawyer, I found the research and discussion to be quite applicable to the struggles women in consulting face in making partner.

And then – another reception, dinner, and round of tent parties to close out the weekend. This was a lot more partying than I’ve done in years and years, and I ended the weekend completely exhausted… but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I still can’t believe it’s already been ten years since I graduated! Even though our fifteen year reunion seems so far away, I’m sure that time will go by just as quickly – and I kind of can’t wait to head back to school again.


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