One trait I like about myself is the ability to see what other people are doing and do something that is slightly different than the norm. I just got back from an overnight trip to Saint John’s University where I spent a day with six close friends from college. We didn’t do much other than catch up, go to prayer with the monks, eat Gary’s pizza, and chat with some monastic friends of ours. It was nice to be in a place of peace where the only thing you needed to do was be in the moment with one another.
I do enjoy taking part in alumni events with CSB/SJU, but they don’t give me the satisfaction that the short time I spend up at the monastery every year does. The events are usually just an hour or two long, I don’t know a ton of people, and it usually involves a lot schmoozing, rather than catching up with people you care about. (I do enjoy schmoozing, but I can only take so much of it.)
I went up to homecoming earlier this year. Seeing the football game was enjoyable and seeing a few people I hadn’t seen in awhile was good as well. The things that struck other people didn’t strike me in the same way. I never learned the Johnnie fight song. Football is fine, but I rarely stay past halftime. I just enjoy doing my own thing so much more. Walking back to Saint John’s on the Wobegon trail with my friend Jer was the most rewarding activity of the weekend. It was just time that we spent on our own, creating our own thing.
I think what works about it is that we make those activities that aren’t the “typical” alumni reunion activities, typical. We walk around campus and check out everything that has changed over the last few years. We go to prayer with the monks, we chat with them, we just catch up in the guesthouse instead of getting blitzed at Sal’s in Saint Joe. And that’s fine. We eat Gary’s and Bo Did’s, too.
The word that all of my friends would use to describe Saint John’s is community. It’s something we valued throughout the course of our time there, and it’s something we still try to incorporate in our everyday lives. I wonder if we would have said that during our first few months at the place. While we all enjoyed drinking, I don’t think any of us made that the central tenet of our time at school. We studied hard, we tried new things, and we all grew in numerous ways. I think we all still try to do that in our own ways.
There’s that old saying that you measure a man by his friends. Or maybe it’s show me a man’s friends and I’ll tell you who they are. I’m so lucky that I got thrown into a group of guys that are people who I respect, enjoy being around, and learn a lot from on a regular basis. And I’m looking forward to next year.