In my first year of teaching in 1973, I had a class at Cal State Los Angeles teaching a group of rehabilitation counselors. I was 25 years old and a year into my doctoral program at UCLA. My students were all older than me. One of the students in the class was Marc Swan. He was an aspiring rehabilitation counselor, and a few years older than me. After the class was done, we gradually became friends. Over time, we became very close and shared a combination of humor (and lots of it, the sicker the better), the counseling process, and, well…partying. It was the 70s after all, and I was in my mid-twenties. I always enjoyed the company of Marc Swan. He was a fun guy, and he had a great way of coming up with nicknames for other people. At any rate, over time we lost touch. Through marriages, divorces, children, grand children, and just plain life, we lost touch. About six years ago I re-established contact with Marc. He was living in Cape Cod and writing poetry. Very very good poetry. We got back in touch, I visited him and his wife Dianne in there new home in Portland, Maine, where they now live. They recently blew my mind by showing up as a total surprise to my book launch party at Ca’Brea on January 21 of this year, brought by another student from the same class, Sheldon Roth. I always marvel at the fact that I met Marc as his professor when I was 25 and he was 28. He just sent me this review he found by surprise, which highly praises his poetry. I am very happy for him and really recommend his writing, especially if lived through the 60s and 70s. It’s right on and quite incisive. As I was reading his book, I noticed in the Acknowledgments he mentioned his friend Billy Bob. I asked him who that was, and he told me that “You’re Billy Bob.” That’s what he now calls me all the time. I’m thinking of changing my middle name from Michael to Robert, but then again, maybe not. I recommend you follow the link or Google Marc Swan. You’ll be glad you did. This story adds a lot of meaning to my life, and I hope it brightens up your day.
When I was in high school, I became very good friends with a girl named Carole Ann. Her father died during our high school years, and I helped her through some of her grieving. I hadn’t seen or heard from her for over 40 years, but always wondered what had happened to her and how her life turned out. I had asked other high school classmates of her whereabouts, but no one knew where she was or what she was doing. Just when I thought it was a hopeless search, her name popped up as a suggestion to “friend” on Facebook. I sent her an invitation and message, but didn’t hear anything back from her. I did notice her employer, so I Googled that company and was able to find her. I sent an e-mail to her work, and within minutes got a phone call from her. She was thrilled to be in touch, and began asking me questions about my life, people she knew, and I asked her questions about her path since our last visit in 1966. I had to inform her that her best friend had been killed in a bicycle accident. Carole indicated that she had pretty much left Pasadena in her past, but was quite happy to have reconnected with me. She had the same bubbly personality and spirit that I remembered from the past. We didn’t talk much about our past relationship, but we both learned about the path each of us had taken. We both had gotten doctorate degrees, and actually lived within a mile of each other in the early 80s in the San Francisco bay area. Though many people leave their past in the past, I strongly believe in the value of reconnecting with people who were a significant part of our development. The popularity of Facebook supports this point. I could tell from her comments that she was grateful that I had been persistent in my search for her. The natural course of events for most people is to move forward in life with new relationships, and leave the old ones behind. Though that may be the choice and course for some, I suggest that we are open to reconnecting, especially with people who were an integral part of our development. This experience and my reconnection with Carole Ann has reaffirmed my belief in the value of merging the past, present, and future. Reach out and touch someone (as the old commercial used to say), and the result may add some meaning to your life.
I have noticed that people who are rekindling high school and college relationships tend to focus on people who were in their graduating class. I graduated from Pasadena High School in 1966, and up until recently stayed in touch primarily with people from the Class of ‘66. But thanks to Facebook I have begun to widen my circle of connections with classes that graduated before and after me. When I was in high school, the vast majority of my friends were in my same year. People below seemed way too young, and people above were virtually unapproachable. One year seemed like an eternity back then, but now it is not significant at all. In fact, I am enjoying connecting with people in other classes to add to my perspective. I have begun to question the wisdom of class reunions that are limited to one graduating year. Why not expand the circle to include five years? We may or may not have much in common with people who are older or younger, but you never know how expanding the circle can add to the richness of your life. You can also learn more about things that were beyond your interest. By extending your reach to other age groups, you can broaden your experience, both of the present, but also the future. Pasadena High School circa 1966 is an especially interesting example, because our graduating classes were well over 1,000. Take a leap and reach out to someone you didn’t know or only knew peripherally. You might find some real treasures.