A long time ago, I was part of the UPLB Perspective, the UPLB answer to UP Diliman's Collegian. In the two years that I worked with that paper, I'd gotten to know some amazing people. Flash forward to today. A colleague--Val-- has recently passed, and there's likely to be a reunion at the wake.
It's not hard to put your erstwhile colleagues away from your thoughts when your own concerns keep you preoccupied and your worlds have necessarily changed. Val was such a colleague, and for the year or so that we worked together as part of the university newspaper--yes, it was work-- we were friends, somewhat. Now, he's gone, and the questions we're left with are the usual rhetorical ones.
I tried hard to disconnect from the old life--the one with Val in it-- because part of me knew that college was temporary. Our group was so big, it had factions, sub-groups put together according
to year ('92 for me), organization (the humorously named Org-Y for Val), and other criteria. While I did feel close to a good number of my colleagues, they weren't my adopted family at the guidance office just across the hall. I knew I'd lose contact with my friends from the paper and I'd wanted to inoculate myself against the loss; leave UPLB with fewer, but longer-lasting connections.
I'm wondering, especially now that I'm keeping away from my adopted family at the guidance office across the hall, if that was wise. Because I did care about my colleagues at the paper, and I miss the camaraderie that sprang from our long nights at camp fires, from long bus rides and press work, and from being forced to work in the same office, and from being threatened by angry frat-men or university authority figures. When I see the Org-Y guys sharing pics on Facebook, connecting very well with other members of the paper, I'm keenly reminded of what I don't have.
Sadly, there's no going back. I'm not the same person I was in college (and neither should I want to be), but that's the same person my peers are expecting to see. Same guy, but older, maybe more worn, but conforming somewhat with their idea of "He must have gone places by now."
I did and I didn't, and my story isn't one that will inspire pride in my former colleagues. I should know: I lived it.
Now, Val is dead, and I should pay my respects. In the best of worlds, I'd be there, shake hands, offer condolences, weep with my peers and be gone. I've been away from them too long, though. The hands they shake will be the hands of a stranger who only dimly remembers that we lived and worked together. I'm not sure I should inflict that on my peers.