For the last eight years, Yale alumni around the world have organized a month of parties, at least one every night of February. This collection of events is called Feb Club Emeritus, and the parties we throw are as diverse as the people who organize them. We’ve had huge affairs at the Yale Club of New York, a luau on a beach in Hawaii, intimate dinner parties in Mississippi and even a party in Afghanistan. Feb Club Emeritus began as a joke among friends who, busy with family, careers and adult obligations, yearned for unstructured time to hang out like they did in college. It has turned into an informal and dispersed gathering of Yalies worldwide.
Every year, people ask me why I help put all of this together. Now that February is over it might be time to ask that again: Why did we do that?
The spirit we saw at this year’s parties really answers the question. At over 120 events from Cleveland to Zanzibar, we saw the rekindling of connections, of friendships, of bonds between classmates, among friends, across generations. We are blessed to be part of a remarkably diverse and intellectually alive community. To dive into that community, to draw from and to contribute to its energy, to have a little bit of fun — that is the point of Feb Club. That is why we do this.
Back in olden times, when I was at Yale, Feb Club was an underground thing and partying was certainly a big part of it. (The Feb Club slogan our senior year was “You can catch up on your sleep the first year you’re dead.” Subtle.) Some of our alumni events have a bit of this, just a bit. More and more, these parties are becoming chances for people to make “February” friendships and see their Feb Club friends. All over the world, communities are sprouting up, born from these parties, which is what these events are really about. It has ceased being about the party; it’s about the fun and friendships, now.
If I could go back to speak with the 20-something me, I would stress this part — the friendship part — of the Yale experience. Have a beer or two, dance with that classmate you’ve had your eye on (and don’t wait nine years to do it, like I did with my wife) and by all means have a good time. You should absolutely stay out late with your friends and classmates hanging out and talking because they are going to live amazing lives. Do not hang out with them for connections, in a how-can-I-get-ahead way, though. Hang out with them because their experiences will enrich yours. Their worldviews will challenge yours. They will dare to do things that will give you courage to try things you would not have otherwise done. They will show courage in the face of adversity, which will give you strength when your time comes (and it will). They will be people who live life with purpose, and they can help you find yours if you lose your way. They will be people with whom you will really enjoy sharing life’s joys.
A few weeks ago, in a Brooklyn distillery owned by a Yalie, I found myself at a Feb Club event, locked arm-in-arm with Yalies from three different decades singing “Bright College Years.” (This is becoming a “thing” at lots of the events, apparently.) The words didn’t mean much to me 30 years ago. But now I know that seasons do come and go, the blue of sunny skies does get clouded sometimes and memories most definitely have a haze. I also have learned that time and change do not break the friendships formed at Yale; they strengthen them. The people singing with me knew this, too.
As we sang (thankfully guided by men and women who were in singing groups), I realized that through our rituals of winter-induced camaraderie, we have found a new way to find our people, our tribe — people with shared experiences, common values of intellectual exploration and an adventurous, sometimes mischievous, outlook. We find one another not through anything formal, but through community, a community that is defined simply by showing up.
As we leave February behind, we turn back to our lives. Throughout the year, we hope to run into our Yale friends at other alumni events: reunions, the Yale Day of Service and the like. But, even if we don’t, we know that February is less than a year away, and wherever we may be and whatever we might be doing, we will be able to hang out with a group of Yalies. That is, after all, why we do Feb Club every year.
Tim Harkness is a 1987 graduate of Morse College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.