Attending my 30th high school reunion, I was reminded there was a time when the future seemed to spread out in front of me like a giant buffet of choice. While there would be consequences for making major life decisions, standing on the platform of a completed high school diploma was a sweet place in time. What I didn’t realize until months later was that I had not earned enough credits in all those years of classes. I was 3 short. Nothing that a quick enrollment in calculus or math 31 as we called it, couldn’t fix. By the end of 1988, I had my diploma in hand.
Those missing credits or more accurately the mistaken calculation was a good life lesson. I had to fix it, fast. I had plans which hinged on the completion of high school, at a minimum. I was not willing to compromise or change my future to accommodate the present state which I found myself in. This would end up being but one of many times where I had to stay nimble, pivot and ultimately get to where I wanted to go.
I could have spent my reunion evening remembering things like the missing credits. Events which confirmed the times I had struggled and come up short. Luckily, that is not what came up for me as I walked into the room and affixed my pink name tag to my chest. Sifting through my memories, like file folders in a computer directory, I hit pause on the good times.
As much as we might wish it to be so, the mind is not a piece of engineering hardware. Events in life seems to be located all over the place and it comes as a complete shock when something so random and assumed to be forgotten pops right on top of the heap. I was reminded of so many things which had happened over the years I lived in my childhood hometown. It was surreal to contemplate the foundational memories I shared with the group assembled. For even if someone was missing, the shared experiences were alive and well.
I insisted that my sister join me. True she graduated 2 years behind me. But by the 30th, graduation reunions cast a wider net to include all the surrounding years as well. That was how we socialized. Didn’t matter your exact age, but more the mindset. Turns out we were often remembered as a pair. We had a reputation. I dared not ask what for. Suffice to say we were invited to, and it was no surprise we accepted, the after party at the local bar called Pal’s.
The stories continued to flow with the drinks, as the hours turned over. At one point, it was declared that we all had experienced the best kind of childhood. We were lucky to have grown up in that place at that time. We had freedom to roam and make mistakes without devastating consequences. We were safe in numbers. We tested our wings and then eventually some of us took flight.
I was a certain kind of person in school. Part of the reason I wanted to go back and peek into my past was to discover some of the qualities I had possessed back then. I’m not sure exactly what I was hoping to find. Maybe certainty, or a feeling of being carefree. Confidence. I didn’t find anything like that. Rather I left town with a feeling. Something about discovering how good I had it, alongside really great people, reminded me how lucky I am. I had a strong emotional base upon which I had built my life. In recent years, I had lost sight of that. My trip back to my first home highlighted what a charmed life I have led.
I feel compelled to think of what I might tell my younger self. These are not expressions of regret, but rather a clarification of how good life could be, back when I couldn’t see into the future so well.
- be patient, what you seek, you will find
- alcohol is not a toy, drink more water, leave before last call, stay with your wing man
- relax, it is not the end
- you are not curing cancer, don’t take it so seriously
- learn to practice empathy for yourself and others
- fear can sometimes be helpful, but most times is not, figure out the difference
- be nice to yourself and then treat everyone that way
- the sky is not falling, stop overreacting
- let go of resentment, for it is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die
- put down all the baggage of hurt, disappointment and unfulfilled expectations – it is far too heavy
- dance, sign and enjoy yourself in all things – not just your time off from work
- don’t waste happiness today in the hopes of life being better tomorrow
I suppose this is good advice for my current self as well. While I am certainly well down this path, some days I need a good reminder. As it was, my 30threunion will continue to be a beacon of a childhood well lived. I am extremely grateful to everyone who reminded me of that.
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