University Reunion, 10 Years On

A few weeks ago, I went back to my university to celebrate the decade anniversary since my matriculation (enrolment). This was my first reunion with many of the classmates whom I haven’t seen since graduation 6 years ago.

These events always fascinate me because I’m inherently a curious person. I want to know how people are getting on with their lives and where they have ended up. Plus there’s free food and wine. Armed with much anticipation, I drove up on a rainy Saturday.

Here are a few things I have learned after that day.

1. Time trickles and flies

The very first thing we said to each other was “Oh my god! I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since we first met.” A decade seems like an eternity and yet it flew past by in a flash of a moment. I can still vividly recall the first day when I was driven up to my college and yet that was more than 3650 days ago!

This is the power of time.

Each second, minute, hour or even day can seem slow and insignificant. Yet when accumulated months after months, they amount to an extraordinary quantum. What seemed to be an unimportant factor (e.g. an incremental 1% improvement in investment returns), when compounded after a long period of time, can produce outstanding results.

This is the most important lesson I learned on that day:

Treasure and respect time.

It is the only asset in life that is irreplaceable.

2. Divergence has emerged

There are inherent differences amongst us. Some of us are tall, others are less so. Some prefer butter on toast whilst others like strawberry jam. That’s life.

So it was not surprising that the difference within my classmates continues to emerge 10 years on.

Taking career as an example: even at this early stage (most of us have been in the workforce for less than 6 years), significant divergence has already emerged.

  • Those who embarked on a banking career appeared to be inherently wealthier than others.
  • People who started working immediately after graduation more much more mature than the ones that stayed behind and studied a Ph.D.
  • My friends who work in the civil service looked happier than the rest, on average.

My prediction is that such divergence will only widen as time passes. What might be a £10,000 difference in salary today could easily transpire to a £200,000 difference in 20 or 30 years’ time. Again, this is the effect of time. Each passing day maybe insignificant and yet when hundreds of insignificant actions stacked together, it leads to a significant outcome.

3. Nobody is truly outstanding, yet

Everyone I reunited with on that day seemed to have followed a rather conventional life path since graduation:

  • Started dating or continued dating the sweetheart from the university; around 25% are married
  • Got a professional white-collar job (e.g. lawyer, accountant, management consultant, civil serving)
  • Half of us have bought our first house
  • 80% are living in London

It definitely felt as if we were all cut from the same cloth and were following a preset trajectory. At one stage it felt slightly monotonic because the same conversation was being repeated every time I spoke to another person.

I’m very glad that I took a rather unusual career by investing and joining a startup. At the same time, I have several pretty cool side projects going on, not to mention WB40!

4. People remained glued to their small cliques

I’ve always been a popular individual. Yet I was never really attached to any group of people at school: I got on equally well with most people I encountered.

Therefore I was puzzled to see that people who hung out together at uni were, surprise surprise, still hanging out after uni and at the reunion.

I guess it makes sense. People prefer the company of individuals that agree and share their views and experiences. However, I’ve always maintained that diversity brings far greater empowerment than monoculturalism. This is because human minds are truly stimulated when exposed to different facades of life.

5. I felt more confident

Confidence is a funny thing. It’s not there when you need it the most but when it is present, you never felt the need for it.

I was definitely on the more insecure end of the spectrum during my school and university years. I constantly worried about every aspect of life from the grades to my appearances and what others thought of me. Yet something magical happened at the reunion. That day, I spoke and acted freely.

I simply didn’t give a sh*t what others thought of me anymore.

I boil this down to the simple fact that I am simply a more confident person. Whether this has been driven by my career, my wealth, my modest achievements in life so far, I’m not sure. What I do know is that I’ve stopped paying attention to others.

6. It was a joyful occasion

At the end of the day, the most visceral feeling I experienced was one of pure joy. It was simply such a fantastic day to be surrounded by familiar faces and settings, reminiscing about the past, talking about the present and dreaming of the future.

It simply goes to show that no matter how successful one may be, happiness is often driver from genuinely positive relationships formed with other people.

Wrap up

We are all different and undoubtedly that difference will become more amplified as time goes on. Yet it’s important to remember that in spite of all the business we may experience during our daily existence, time and true relationships are the most precious gifts we can have. Don’t waste them.

Have you been back to a reunion lately? How did you feel? I’d love to hear your views.