I walked around a nearby lake today, reflecting on of all things, my high school classmates.
I had just read on Facebook about a classmate who has written a children’s book with his adult daughter. I immediately ordered it.
He and I wouldn’t have given each other even a passing glance in the hallway as teenagers. We didn’t run in the same circles at all. But I felt so proud of him when I read about his book release!
I can’t help but think about the people we all have become and are continuing to become, 32 years out from our graduation day back in 1988.
All of my classmates would be utterly stunned that I write about sex. The shy totally-not-popular journalism nerd now professing confidently about sexual positions and orgasm and great ways to tell your spouse what turns you on sexually.
Of course, thanks to social media, I guess a few of my classmates do know now that I write about sex. Probably still hard for them to believe it, though!
Facebook has been quite the game changer, hasn’t it? It peels away the years and barriers and allows us to glance—at least to some degree—into the lives of people we knew long ago.
It’s interesting… this awareness we have of people. Personally, I think it’s a good thing; even a gift at times.
A few years ago, I connected with a high school classmate, and we immediately felt such a sweet authentic bond. We weren’t even friends back in the day. We were barely acquaintances. And now I love her deeply. I found out about her and connected with her not directly on Facebook, but through another classmate who I had reconnected with on Facebook.
Anyway. Props to technology. That’s what I say.
My generation is the first that was young adults when technology started to come into its own on a wide scale use. Personal computers. Email. Then gradually, cell phones and digital photography and eventually texting and online everything. And then all that stuff, but faster. Now here we are in our late 40s to mid-50s, still riding the wave of access and ease of connecting with others.
Our children have never known days without all the tech. We, though, are the unique generation that came of age right in between it all—the days of no tech and the days of everything tech. Scroll through your social media feeds and take note of all the people with whom you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reconnect had it not been for technology.
These are the sorts of things I was pondering, as I was walking around the lake—reflecting on my high school classmates and how life is the great equalizer.
We outgrow our cliques and our boxes and our stereotypes and our over-exaggerated differences. We no longer are defined by what we did in high school. The days of being known one-dimensionally as athletic or popular or artsy or brainy or rebellious or punk or heavy metal or in the orchestra or on the sidelines as a cheerleader…well, our identity clings less and less to these things as the years click by.
And then one day our identity doesn’t cling to those things at all.
I wish we could all know as 18-year-olds what we come to know in subsequent decades. I wish somehow back then we had a little of the wisdom we eventually find.
One of my high school classmates died by suicide our senior year.
I think about him every now and then.
I wish I could tell you, Jeff, that life is a great equalizer. That whatever it is that troubled you then… you would have gained perspective had you given it a little more time. A little more space. I’m sad you felt alone. I’m sad you felt you had nowhere to turn, no one you felt could reassure you that if you just gave it a little more time and a little more space and talked it out, the perspective would come.
I’m sad I didn’t get to stumble across you on Facebook, Jeff, and send you a friend request…and tell you now what I didn’t say then. You were such a genuinely kind person.
Life is the great equalizer. I was thinking about this as I walked around the lake, faces of my high school classmates flashing through my heart and mind.
Some have travelled the world.
Some have married.
More than a handful have written books.
Some have seen unfathomable tragedy and loss.
Some have poured their hearts and money and time into worthy causes.
Some have divorced. A few have remarried.
Some have battled cancer courageously and won.
And some have started businesses.
Some have fostered kids.
Some are burdened by chronic illnesses.
Some have changed careers multiple times, arriving at places far removed from their interests as 18-year-olds.
Some have faced their own addictions. And some have bore the weight and worry of their children’s addictions.
Some live far away from where we grew up.
And some live right there in our sleepy little town that isn’t so sleepy anymore. Or so little.
Some have buried spouses. And parents.
And some have buried children.
Some have taught school for decades.
A few have died.
And more than a few have found work to which they feel called.
Some are estranged from people they love dearly.
Some are in a fragile place. And some are in an amazing place. Most of us are probably somewhere in between those two.
Though our paths are all unique, I’m fairly certain life is the great equalizer.
No one comes through unscathed. And all experience some joy, at least some of the time. If we could listen closely to each other’s hearts, we’d arrive at a collective head nod. I have no doubt.
We’d know we are all works in progress. Life is the great equalizer.
Today after my long walk around the lake, I had a phone call with the friend—the one who was my high school classmate back then, and now is such a trusted confidante. So real this one is, you guys. I kid you not. And I got to hear her voice and pour out my heart and listen to hers.
And that is a gift neither of us could have seen or fathomed—not even five years ago. And certainly not back on that graduation day in 1988.
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