Office of the VP for Communications – Keeping alumni and friends connected to U-M

It’s just a number

Oh, grow up

To work at the University of Michigan is to engage in a form of time travel.

Pat Benatar

This is Pat Benatar, not me. She did much better with the hair style than I did.

Day after day you are thrust into a world that is part past, part present. It’s a universe of youthful exuberance and buzzing anxiety. An ever-present fear of failure makes the Ann Arbor air crackle with purpose, motivation, striving — all wrapped in lululemon and Canadian Goose. The faces you see are dewy, poreless, and wrinkle-resistant.

If you allow it, you can trick your cells into believing you are one of them. Time falls away as you bob along with the bulging backpacks on State Street. In your mind, it’s 1982. You are rocking that Pat Benatar mullet as you crank the B-52s on your Sony Walkman.

And then you catch your middle-aged, long-past-college-student reflection in the window at Walgreen’s. Reality bites. You had your time, your brain reminds, even as your cells rebel against the notion that the image in the window is you. You make a point to be grateful that you are, in fact, alive, but still vow to avoid all shiny surfaces for the rest of the day.

Editor Deborah Holdship circa 1985

This is me, not Pat Benatar. And my mullet, circa 1985.

To remind us that “age is just a number,” I’ve packed this issue with a couple of surprises for the kid hiding behind that Block M logo. (Come on, we have Santa Claus and squirrels!) I mean, I was taken aback to learn we had not yet written about our accomplished alum Valentine Davies, author of the beloved Christmas story Miracle on 34th Street. And I grew up hand-feeding squirrels in my Grandma’s backyard, so I used my podcast this month to see if photographer/Ross librarian Corey Seeman would introduce me to a few of his furry friends.

Sure, there’s serious news for the grownups about climate change and medical research (about aging, no less!). But frankly, the whimsical stuff that speaks to the child in me is what’s working these days.

It is challenging to be mindful in the moment, to live in the present: 2019 was a year of profound personal loss for me. It doesn’t take much for me to exit reality and daydream myself into a place and time when I was as young as these students on the streets of Ann Arbor.

So, it’s lucky for me that I get paid to time travel for a living. Miracles really do happen, I guess.


  1. Amy Spooner - 1995

    Every day on my way to and from work, I pass the apartment at the corner of Main and Hoover where I lived as a junior. Every time, there’s a split-second thought of, how did I get here (related to chronology, not geography).


    • Deborah Holdship

      haha!!! Thanks for playing!


  2. Chris Campbell - Rackham '72; Law '75

    One day I looked in the mirror and realized that I was old. I didn’t FEEL old but everybody who looks at me sees an old guy. Now I’m used to it. But another revelation was that nobody talks about the wonderful richness that comes with age. There’s an appreciation for bright people, for historic innovators and artists, for beauty, for kindness, and (quoting the Squire in “The Seventh Seal”) “the triumph of being alive.” Yes, I’m a bit jealous of the young folks with flexible bodies, exuberance, and a long future ahead, but we old folks have some advantages too. I can’t make time move backward so I try to enjoy the present as fully as possible, and don’t spend too much time lamenting the loss of youth.

    Chris Campbell
    Traverse City


    • Patty Donohue Ebach - 1985 & 1986

      Yes, yes, Chris,and Amy and Deborah! All of it!


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