Friends forever

A group of women in the 1980s in sorority jackets with puffy hair
Karen and her sorority sisters in 1988.

When I was in my early 20s and just starting out, I kept in touch with most of my friends from high school and college. That was before social media made it so easy.

Then life happened. Kids came along, careers were forming, people moved away, responsibilities shifted and maintaining every friendship, even when you wanted to, was unfortunately no longer the highest priority. Then a funny thing happened. In the blink of an eye, the kids are grown, careers are established or winding down and you start longing for those friendships. They are the people who knew you when you were young and shared all the wild, crazy and often misdirected times from your past, before duty and burdens set in and made you a true adult.

A large group of sorority sisters posing for the camera in 1988
The Spring 1988 Alpha Sigma Tau pledge pickup.

I recently got together with a group of friends from college. Thirty-five years ago, we were sorority sisters. As I interact with the girls, in a way it feels like I have been transported back in time and it’s wonderful to feel 21 again! There is no friend in my life now, no matter how close, with whom I can be this person. All we had in common was age and proximity, but that was enough. That comfort level is still there, yet none of us are the people we were back then. We were blank canvases unknowingly waiting for time and experience to paint us into the people we are now.

A group of women posing for a picture on an outside patio
Karen and her sorority sisters recently reconnected

The evidence of time is real, as I look around. Our faces are the same, but we don’t look like college students anymore. We are the parents of college students and older. The lines on our faces are deeper but to be honest, I think we look better. We have more confidence and a better sense of who we are.

Some of us are celebrating 30-plus years of marriage. Others are embarking on a new relationship. Some have children getting married and grandkids. Some have children still at home. Others have a child living halfway around the world. Some are retiring, and others are embarking on a new career. Some have endured serious heartache like cancer, divorce or the premature loss of a spouse or child. Life has beaten us down and lifted us up but not a single story is the same.

When I look at old photos, it’s impossible to predict how things would turn out for all those young faces, and I search for clues that can tell me about the place in which we would each end up. But there are no clues, no matter how hard I look.

I find myself feeling grateful for these women, this night and this stage in my life that makes it all possible. We have all been shaped over the last 35 years in ways that have made us wiser, different and survivors. And I’ve found with them, is a perfect place to find inspiration and strength.

A group of women in a bar
A meet up with friends at a bar