There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged
to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
Â Â Â Â There was that moment, as I held the invitation to my 40th high school class reunion in hand, when I thought, how have I aged? After all these years high school insecurities still exist. Why? Iâ€™m happily entrenched in midlife, and yet the decision to go to my class reunion immediately brought up all sorts of Noxzema-scented emotions. Do I look better/worse/the same? Have I done anything interesting with my life? Would the inevitable old shared stories make me laugh, cringe, or cry?
How I look then and nowâ€¦
As to how I look, well, itâ€™s the classic canâ€™t see the forest for the trees scenario. Can I ever be truly satisfied with my body image? Each stage of life brings its own set of rules I need to break. J
Back in high school, I was sort of a fashion rebel. I wore what I thought was fun and different, which didnâ€™t always fit the rural farming communityâ€™s status quo. And, in retrospect, maybe those â€œwhat is wrong with her?â€ opinions were deserved. Admittedly, how my style choices looked on me rarely crossed my mind. It was all about uniqueness. I was full-figured back then and remain so now. Going braless on occasion caused more than one point of contention (tee hee).
As I pondered the invitation, I briefly wondered if I should go on a diet to lose ten pounds. For some reason ten pounds is always the magic number that will bring unconditional love, right? But then I reminded myself that Iâ€™m fine as is, and losing ten pounds was based on fear of judgment and not health. This is who I am at 58, and I am doing my darndest to own it. My husband even winked and said I should go braless. Yeah. He gets me.
What Have I Done With My Life?
Our class motto was, â€œLife is not having and getting, but being and becoming.â€ Did I live up to that? Have I done anything interesting in the â€œbeing and becomingâ€ areas of my life? I think so.
Life has given me a delicious blend of dings, dents, and blessings. Mistakes have collected into anecdotal lessons and stories. Love has moved in, moved on, and moved in again. Travel opened my mind and made me more aware and appreciative of the differences in people. (Oh, and then thereâ€™s becoming mindful of what we take for granted. For instance, once youâ€™ve peed, en masse, on the side of the road in China and Tibet with co-ed travelers a shift takes place on the shyness meter. Suddenly a toiletâ€”with privacyâ€”seemed like a rare, imagined, invention.)
Here, in midlife, Iâ€™m concerned with what I can give back going forward. When I was younger, and a single-mom, it was hard to make the paycheck last to the end of the month. Giving time and donations to charities seemed out of reach. My thinking has changed on that. Now I set aside 10% of any sales I make from my scarves, photography, and coloring books and donate the proceeds to favorite charities. My financial advisor frowns on that, but oh how my heart sings.
How Will I Feel When The Old Stories Are Shared Once Again?
Â For some odd reason, I felt like I needed to prep my husband as we drove north to the reunion. â€œSo and so may bring this up,â€ I said. It was as though, by telling it first, I could take the surprise out of any tale told, which is weird because I was a goodie two shoes.
I was a–albeit braless–vanilla girl trying to reach beyond the pastures and social norms that created extremely solid boundaries. But reaching wasnâ€™t doing. I didnâ€™t smoke, drink, date, or do drugs.
About as crazy as it got was the time I wanted to prove our principal had it in for me. I asked a friend to do something that would irritate him, but not to tell me what it was. A short while later Mr. R came to our study hall and summoned me to the hallway. He yelled at me for what I had done. â€œWhat did I do?â€ I asked. That question only made him angrier. â€œClean it up, now!â€ he said all red-faced and spit-sputtering. â€œClean what up?â€ I again asked. Uffda. He was about to pop a vein. It turned out â€œIâ€ had left a snowball by his office door. Well, I hadnâ€™t of course. Nonetheless, I got paper towels and mopped up the area with a smile on my face. I had made my point that the guy just did not like me. I know, I know. A snowball? Juvenile detention was in order.
How The ReunionÂ Turned Outâ€¦
Â I wore a bra. I also wore black linen pants, a black tank top, modest diamond earrings, and flip flops. The ensemble was a far cry from my high school fashion experiments. Meh. Simple feels right now.
When I walked in the room, I was genuinely happy to see familiar faces that have taken on characteristics that come with lifeâ€™s complexities. Wrinkles, gray hair, and a weathering that was lovely to witness.
I was impressed by how many of my classmates are living lives of service. One just retired from teaching and now volunteers in numerous ways. One has been managing a group home for physically challenged adults. One is a foster parent for teenagers. One adopted two kids with fetal alcohol syndrome. They did the â€œbeing and becomingâ€ axiom proud.
We shared more of our present livesâ€”grandchildren, retirement, health issuesâ€”and left those past adventures lovingly in the past.
As the afternoon waned, someone asked how many of us still had living parents. Only two in attendance raised their hand. It was a quiet moment as we gave the passage of time its due.
Iâ€™m so glad I opted to go to my 40th class reunion. We shared laughs, hugs, and a bond that has stretched through the decades. Who we were is still evident. Who we are is pretty freakâ€™n amazing too.