Not Hating My College Reunion (Thanks, Myers-Briggs)

by | May 29, 2024

I recently attended my 30-year college reunion, and a funny thing happened. I didn’t hate it.

Now, I know that doesn’t sound like a resounding triumph, but in years past, these events have not been my favorite. Five, 10, and even 20 years after graduation, I still found myself experiencing the same (okay, maybe similar) feelings of social anxiety and not-enoughness that plagued me as a student in the early ‘90s. I wondered what people thought about how I looked, aged(!), and achieved.

I would attend the afternoon alumni parade and picnic down Penn’s idyllic Locust Walk, mix and mingle at our class picnic under a tent on College Green, and shout above the DJ’s music at our class “gala” in the basement of Houston Hall.

And while it was lovely to re-connect with friends and catch up with acquaintances, I really couldn’t wait until it was all over. So that my insecurities, social exhaustion, and sore feet from standing all day long could subside.

Honoring My Authentic, Introverted Self

Then, after this year’s gathering came to a close, I remarked to my husband that it was my favorite reunion ever, prompting us both to wonder why. I quickly realized that it came down to three reasons:

  1. I limited my time there. Instead of attending all of the alumni events, I went to just the parade of classes and spent a few minutes under the picnic tent. After that, a few friends and I spent time in a nearby student center, caught up, and shared some fun and wonderful memories. Then I headed home and took a nap. No evening gala for me.
  2. I focused on deep connections with a handful of people. Before the parade, I met my former roommate (Hi, Mindy!) for a long breakfast, where we had ample time to catch up. I took a stroll with a sorority sister (Hi, Sandi!) and heard all about her daughter, who was graduating from our alma mater the next day. And my escape from the picnic was with former housemates (I’m looking at you, Marlene, Meri, and Andrea), with whom I took some fun pictures in front of our (still dilapidated) former abode.
  3. I honestly (really and truly) didn’t care what people thought of me. Those who’ve met or seen a picture of me know that I have very curly hair. And it was raining the entire day. Curly girls, you get what I’m saying here; for others, just know that rain is not a curly girl’s friend. I’m guessing the result wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t even look. But not caring about the hair was the least of it. I felt no need whatsoever to impress people with my career, my accomplishments, what my kids are up to – none of it. With this pressure off, I could just be myself and focus on hearing about how my classmates are doing.

What all the above reasons have in common is they honor my true, authentic, and introverted self, which my first Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment helped me understand over 10 years ago. Here’s how:

  • I recognized that my introverted energy would be depleted by a full day (and evening) of socializing, surrounded by lots of people, with the expectation of mixing and mingling.
  • I tapped into the strength and preference that I, and most introverts, have for going deeper in conversation and having more meaningful connections with a fewer number of people.
  • I embraced the authenticity of who I am at this point in my life and career: I’m comfortable in my skin; conscious of leaning into my strengths, rather than lamenting what I lack; and I’m grateful for my health, family, security, and happiness.

How simple is that? Can’t wait for our 35th.

About the author: Since graduating from her alma mater in 1994, Stacey Chazin has followed a very unexpected career path that led her to coaching and guiding introverted professionals to tap into their strengths, thrive at work, and be recognized for their leadership. She is a certified MBTI practitioner and holds a master’s degree in organizational development and leadership, as well as a master’s in public health. Click to learn more about her program, I-Factor Leadership.