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25

There are certain milestones in life that make you feel really old. This is one of them.

I reached into my mailbox this week and pulled out an invitation to my 25th college reunion.

Twenty-five years ALREADY?!

After skimming the letter about the upcoming festivities (lobster bake and barbeque, campus tour, Saturday night class event at Fenway Park), I turned the page to the yellow sheet with the dreaded Class Survey, where you have to account for your last quarter of a century. This is where I caught myself thinking, "Oh, no! I have till March 1st to get down to 120 pounds and win an Oscar!"

Is there anyone who, when confronted with an upcoming reunion, doesn't feel insecure and inadequate about what he/she has accomplished? Or is it just me? I remember an old "thirtysomething" episode centering around Hope's attempts to fill out a reunion survey, so there must be a few of us out there who do some soul-searching at reunion time: Did I do what I meant to do with my life? Have I made a difference? Am I happy?

Tell us something about your life since college, the survey urges me. They want to know how I've changed, "your greatest joys, and any special interests, hobbies or concerns that you have now."

Wow. That's a lot to think about and boil down into a few lines.

Greatest joys: My 22-year marriage and my 15-year-old son definitely head the list. Despite many substantial challenges along the way, we love one another and we are surviving. That's no small achievement.

How have I changed? I'm still trying to figure that one out. When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living, and over the years my career has evolved a number of times: office worker in cable TV, radio-ad copywriter, radio talk-show producer, weekly newspaper reporter, copy editor, genealogist. I have discovered some of my strengths and some of my limitations.

Now I teeter on the edge of taking myself seriously about creative writing -- something I have said I wanted to do for about 20 years. Some time back I joined a writers' group, found a critique partner, started some novels but left them unfinished. A national-magazine editor called me to express interest in a short story I'd written, but my changes in it did not match her vision. Eventually my lack of self-confidence made me back off from writing, and I've always regretted that. Blogging has been, partially, my attempt to reconnect with myself as a writer and gain enough assurance to try again.

Over the years, I've learned how to travel on my own, advocate for causes I believe in, understand better what I can do and what I can't -- and how to say "no." I'm still trying to learn how to nurture myself without filling the void inside with food or spending. This is unbelievably difficult.

The closing question of the survey is, "What philosophy or words of wisdom would you like to give us?"

At first this one stumps me utterly, but then I think about why I titled this blog "Different Drummer." I don't think I can improve on Thoreau's advice from Walden: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

I have spent 25 years hearing the music only faintly, or not at all. It's time to turn up the volume.

Whether or not I make it to Boston for the reunion, it seems my college is still giving me an education.

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