It is a fascinating ponderous activity. Spending time with other people. What do you do or say?
Now spending time with your family is one thing. They are your family. You spend every minute with them. You have no choice. You eat, sleep, vacation and do chores with them. You talk about how school was or what is on television or how much more allowance is needed. For the most part, at least in my family, the common everyday discussions or lack there have never presented any earth shattering ideas or value changing statements. Being around family was as much taking orders and observations than any deep thought provoking ideas.
As kids, we first tend to hang around with our own kind. That means kids from school who look and act like you. They come from similar families and enjoy the same television shows and have familiar toys. We are usually divided by sex and are gathered into groups with the same uniforms like the scouts or baseball teams and only in our pre-teens start to explore the dating.
Once the sexes are mingled for dances or parties everything changes. We start learning interaction and must face our limitations and liabilities. We have puppy love crushes and heart breaking breakups. We start to form our social makeup and how we will present ourselves to others including how we dress and how we wear our hair. This stuff matters now.
By now in school there are lots of new faces and personalities to deal with. To be accepted into groups one must learn to adapt to certain requirements and social behavior. While some of these new clubs and organizations may bring pride to the family certain values are tested like drinking, driving fast, or other mischievous behavior. It is all part of growing up.
College brings new opportunities to test ones ability to learn, grow and make decisions without advice. Gatherings of students during this time start with reflections of class studies and philosophical discussions but quickly reduce to hedonistic debauchery of drinking and drugs. Life is becoming real and consequences to actions earlier protected by family must be faced alone.
Work brings another social challenge. While school had provided the freedom for openness, the work environment present a diversity of age, values, and beliefs that did not fit the previous mold. The office party brought this to bear in the most uncomfortable manner. Making small talk with people you neither liked or had anything in common with while trying not to upset your boss. If you are married by this time, your spouse becomes part of your presentation. Some of your behavior that is accepted by friends and tolerated by family cannot be practiced around work associates.
As gatherings grow larger and more frequent like conventions requiring traveling and presentations representing your business or organization the social behavior changes again. Now the time together is all about networking. Find out who is the most important or the most valuable for you to accomplish your goals. You sell yourself to a business card, an email address, and a phone number that can be accessed twenty-four hours a day.
So it will be interesting in a couple of weeks to spend time with some old school mates for a few days. Sure there will be light comedy over drinks and brief discussions of health, family, appliances and toys as with any conversations with people you don’t know. But then what?
I don’t kid myself that we can chase away decades to go back to meaningful topics since we have all had different life experiences that have tainted our former shared values and beliefs. We can turn back the hands of time and try and remember those times and people who drew us together. We could ask the questions that would require peeling back sheltering emotions. We might let down our guard and make the short time together memorable.
This gathering will hopefully be on the best of terms. I’m sure we will all be on our best behavior but will we come away with anything reveling about why we still associate with one another?