Funny thing about this August – I’ve had the chance to catch up in person with quite a number of high school friends – some of whom I haven’t seen in about 16-17 years. And it’s been kind of weird. When you go this long without seeing people, they tend to remain eternally frozen in the moment you last saw them. Think Han Solo in carbonite. Though hopefully without the look of intense pain. And somehow against all practical reality – despite knowing intellectually that a decade and a half of intense change have passed – some deep-seated, emotional part of you half expects that your friends will thaw out from that carbonite of time slightly worse for wear but fundamentally with the same boyish good looks, rakish smile, devil-may-care attitude and smartass remarks.
But of course, it’s not like that at all. So that first moment is one of muted shock. Your 16-year-old friend is teaching 16-year-olds. Your ex-boyfriend has grey hair (well…he always did. But he has more!), is married and traveling the world. One of your best friends has a three-year-old. Your elementary school friend owns a condo. And everyone seems so…so…responsible. These are the friends you went midnight bowling with in your prom dress and tuxedos. Or wrestled with at sunset on the beach. Or held one too many dress-up mystery dinners with. And you can’t believe that so much time has passed. Somehow, we’re in our mid-late 30s, and we’ve become…adults. (Wait. What? I never agreed to that!)
Then someone makes a wiseass remark. Or gives a turn of phrase that catches your ear. Or vividly recalls a “Remember when…” moment. And you think that maybe things haven’t changed quite so much after all. And you listen a little harder. And you realize that no, your first impression was right. Things have changed. Comments are more nuanced. Well-thought. Opinions are stronger. Deliberate. Confident. Jokes are a little sharper, wittier – even the ones that reside in the gutter or the potty. Everyone has matured. (Well…mostly!)
And those changes make you contemplate how you’ve changed. Particularly when one friend remarks how much you’ve changed. You can’t see it in yourself of course. You know you aren’t quite that 16 year old you once were who wrote bad poetry and was full of self-doubt. But it’s hard to remember what it was like, where you’ve come from, and how much you’ve changed. And you wonder – are you where you think you should be?
I know that I’m (more) confident and (relatively) capable. Opinionated. Optimistic and idealistic. I’m stronger than I was then. I’m a pretty damn good mother (pat back; pat back). Probably a better friend than I was, though I could be better. Unfortunately, I appear to be as self-absorbedly reflective as I was then (used to be bad poetry, now it’s a blog). Not quite as full of confidence as I like to project. I got skills, though.
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Pretty sure Scientific American Frontiers isn’t being produced anymore, and really, there’s only one Alan Alda. I’m not sure I’ve found my voice, though I’m still trying (Tap, tap. Testing, 1, 2, 3. Is this thing on?).
And then, I think about it a little more and realize – it was nice to reflect a bit about who I was and how far I’ve come – but I don’t need to do too much of it. It’s okay that I haven’t found my voice or that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, as long as I don’t stop looking. It’s been a bumpy journey. I don’t see an end in sight. But that’s okay. The scenery’s breathtaking.