Do you find the talk at class reunions banal? How often do former classmates truly share authentic life stories? Or even show up at all?
Wanting to help create a more meaningful experience, I joined the planning committee for my Stanford MBA 25-year reunion. My hope was to introduce the Center for Courage & Renewal’s Circle of Trust approach for at least one session as a way to promote connections among a small group of classmates
At the same time, I was going through a whole rollercoaster ride full of emotions prior to the event itself as I struggled with how I measured up to my Stanford MBA classmates 25 years post-degree.
The reunion committee embraced the idea of connecting through stories as the theme. We created four topics to take place as panel discussions followed by group circles:
- 25 Out: What Success Means Now
- Passions: Work that Satisfies
- Curve Balls: When Life Requires Courage
- Family First? Reflections on our Choices
What I found in these few planning months is that by being vulnerable and leading with integrity from my place of feeling like an outsider that we were able to create a more inviting and hospitable space for everyone to show up and they did in droves!
I sat on the Curve Balls panel discussion with three other classmates. One spoke of challenges raising his son with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Another talked about developing a near fatal cancer a year after graduation. And another spoke of his fall from an 18-foot ladder head first and his recovery. I thought I might talk about rediscovering my femininity in the process of losing both breasts to cancer or redefining what it means to be human by raising a child with an IQ of 70, but instead I found myself talking about my experience with internalized racism.
A black classmate, whom I didn’t know well before, came up and was surprised and grateful that I brought up the topic. A white classmate asked at dinnertime asked what internalized racism was since he had never heard the term.
What I discovered was that I was intimately connected with these peers in our struggles to live life with meaning and, at midlife, how much of that is defined by the quality of our relationships with others and with oneself. I am so happy that by sharing our true stories we found a way toward our love and humanity.
What authentic life story would you choose to share?