I see you, way back there in 1987.
I know what you’re thinking.
I’ve just told you that you just came home from your 30th high school reunion, an occasion you swore you would never, ever go to.
(Never, ever. That’s so cute. And naïve.)
Instead, you had one of the best nights of your life with people who (I know, you’re not going to believe me) are genuinely great to be around.
They’re funny, smart, accomplished and you have a lot more in common than you think.
But now, in the me decade of the ’80s, you’re just trying to fit in. To feel accepted and seen in your small school where the same kids you stood with at the bus stop on your first day of elementary school will be the same kids in most of your classes and the same kids you’ll cross the graduation stage with 12 years later.
Yeah, newsflash (or spoiler alert, as we say in this era): despite the hell of algebra and the horrors of gym class, you do graduate. You’ll go to a college where, unlike Cheers, nobody knows your name (at first) and then you get a job or five, and maybe lose a few of them. You’ll make some money and the economy will make some of that disappear, too. Same with your friends; you’ll keep some, make more, lose some of them, too.
In essence, you get a life.
That’s a bit of a ways off, though. For now, though, you’re in a competitive pressure-cooker where everyone is expected to excel. In everything. ALL. THE. FREAKIN’. TIME. It’s easy to feel less-than, that you don’t measure up, that what you do in these years will be remembered forever, would haunt you.
Or so you think.
Here’s what I’m trying to tell you, 30 years out.
The things you think matter today, in 1987?
Are going to be very different things in 2017.
(Oh my God, you have no idea how different things are going to be in 2017. Believe me.)
You know how I know? Because last night, 30 years later? People who once seemed to have it all (and it all together) were admitting that…they…really…didn’t.
“I know, I know, I was such a loser….”
“…it was not always easy to see that [the good in people] in high school – when you are so self absorbed.”
Wait, what? Him? HER? They were feeling like this too?
What would it have been like, had we known? What damage could have been prevented? How different would we have been? How much fewer scars would we have had, then and now?
Who would we have noticed more closely?
It turns out that we were all insecure and unsure, trying to find our way. And we still are, in a sense. We’re sandwiched between our perplexing teens and our aging parents and facing an uncertain future on several fronts. With seven classmates gone and losses of others in our lives, there are likely more years in the rearview mirror at this point than there are ahead.
But we know a few things that we didn’t know then.
We know that things get better. In so many ways.
And we know that we’re not alone gathered here in this thing called life.
And we finally, finally learned the most important lesson of all.
We never were.