Highlights from the 2022 Alumni Forum, by Laura Limarzi ’17: ‘The opposite of being alone is not simply to be in the company of others, it is to experience life together’
Written by Laura Limarzi ’17, 2022 Alumni Forum Advisory Team member
Suspended in the uniquely dichotomous experience of sweating under the multiple layers shielding me from the characteristic cold of a mid-autumn morning run in Chapel Hill, I reprimand my former self for signing up for the Uncle Mot Trot. Struggling to keep pace in the expanse between the marathon enthusiasts and a large group who has decided to walk together, I remind myself that physical vigor is intentionally broad.
I try to focus on the smiles nearly leaping off the faces of the current scholars ringing cowbells at the strangers they’ve welcomed into their home for the weekend, rather than on the shame I feel for not yet being the kind of person who is just proud to be running the race.
While reviewing the list of notes for self-improvement scrolling in my mind (regarding both cardio and my perception of effort), the person next to me strikes up a conversation. Great. Now, not only must I make it appear as if this reasonable amount of running isn’t difficult, I must also squeak out words that make it seem as if I am enjoying it.
To my delight, the conversation quickly moves from our mutual position in the pack, to the game of finding shared contacts, current career aspirations, and ultimately to expressions of gratitude for being back in Chapel Hill. Within no time, we’ve completed a third of the race together.
Hours later, walking into the reception tent just a few minutes ahead of the start of the formal dinner program, I quickly realize it will be impossible to locate one of the few people whom I know in attendance. Attempting to will the panic rising red in my cheeks from revealing itself, I take a deep breath. This is a room of nice people. You can do it.
Finally, I spot a friend from the class above mine. However, as I approach the table, I struggle to place the faces of the others sitting with him. Eventually, I realize everyone else is in my boat.
Between the noise surrounding us, significant age differences, abrupt ends to sentences in order to lend attention to the speakers, and non-obvious career connections, it isn’t the kind of conversation that feels free-flowing. Yet, everyone keeps trying.
Slowly, connections are built over hobbies, travel destinations, having a passion for something, and of course, our shared experience in this place. Several of us wipe tears as Jerry Blackwell reflects on answering the call of duty, and we don’t hesitate to fling our arms around one another to hark the sound together.
The COVID-19 pandemic ingrained in me a deep gratitude for the opportunity to be in the company of others—something I was aware of heading into the weekend. However, the Forum crystalized an important element of this gratitude: The opposite of being alone is not simply to be in the company of others. It is to experience life together.
And what a gift it was to experience life together with this community once again.
Share news with Morehead-Cain