By Liz Marchi
Who was that girl in the summer edition of Flathead Living? It was me, Liz Conner, during my senior year at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia in 1976. I did something I don’t do much – visit another place in time. How quickly 40 years have passed. Always looking ahead, I have never been big on “reunions.” But this college class reunion was so very special: the joy of seeing former classmates and being in a place that profoundly shaped my life.

As we age, I have decided we need to examine our “rules for living” more often. When I began working in 1976, I had a sign on my desk, which I have to this day, that reads, “Effective People Live in the Present but Concentrate on the Future.” That future is closing in. I am always telling my girls: don’t look back, you aren’t going that way! But there is joy in allowing ourselves to look back a bit.

We were a class of 300-plus women from all over the country and world, but mostly from the South and East Coast, who enrolled at a small Virginia women’s college in 1972, the year Richard Nixon was elected president. We took the road less traveled: no boys, no sororities, just rigorous academics. The world for women was changing dramatically, and we came to Hollins to be our best selves. We streaked across campus when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in tennis.

The historic campus is stunning. Founded in 1842, Hollins always existed to educate young women for lives of meaningful work, lifelong learning and service to society. It is still doing that today. My classmates are living and working all over the world. I am the only one living on a ranch in Montana.

Many of us have raised families, but this time was about us. We are at that point in our lives where we have weathered the inevitable heartbreaks, the joys and struggles of family, work and life. I hadn’t seen these women – such beautiful people – in four decades. At the reunion, we lived in the moment, not the past. It was so clear that, as people, we shared many of the same values and aspirations, including a passion for diversity, tolerance, education, community, service and, most of all, the support of women to achieve. It was a beautiful thing.

Maybe the best part was the joy of being silly. I was never one for silliness, but I’m a convert. We dressed up as the “Spirit of 1976” for the alumnae parade on front quad. As a student, I thought these old women were nuts. I get it now. Lucky me to have lived long enough to understand.

There is sadness in the classmates we have lost to cancer and other diseases. There were some holes in our hearts for those beautiful souls. You can’t go home again, but you can cherish the people and places that made this life journey ever so much richer and more meaningful. Age has its advantages.

Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging – from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at Liz@frontierangels.com.