Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Southbridge’

Sunday musings 6/3/18: 40th Reunion Thoughts

2018 is the year of my 40th high school reunions (we moved after my freshman year so I have two). It’s a nice time to return to one of my frequent themes, identity. Who are you when you are all alone, just you and the mirror? Who are you when you are in any particular group of people? Do you feel that there is more confluence between those versions of you than not? How much confluence do you think there is between who you think you are and who it is that those around you think you are? As this is my 40th year away from my classmates, have you evolved from who you thought you were and who your classmates thought you were over the years?

First a couple of disclaimers. One should not be all that too terribly concerned about the thoughts of others since this gives all too much power to individuals who may not have your best interests at heart. Sorry, but our world is altogether too filled with people who will opt to climb over your downtrodden psychological carcass if you allow them to do so. Also, there is no reason for you to ossify as an individual at any stage of your life. Indeed, if you haven’t evolved since high school you’re probably doing it wrong.

Over the years I admit that I have not made much of an effort to remain in contact with the vast majority of my classmates in either of my childhood towns. I could certainly lay the blame for that on my Dad who held that true friendships were rare and the effort to stay in touch with acquaintances too arduous for the ROI. The truth is more that I’ve always done the deepest dive possible into whatever ocean of opportunity I happened to be sailing on at any given moment; those oceans have always been rather distant from the shores of my youth. It was simply too hard and too time consuming to maintain a large number of close contacts behind as I was ever looking ahead. Looking back there is no way to know if this was the best strategy. Like my Dad, though, I have tried to be the best friend I could be to those who were with me at any given time.

Today Facebook has made it rather easy to re-forge ties, however delicate the fibers may be. These tiny, tenuous connections have me very curious about my childhood mates in both towns. Much to the surprise (and amusement) of my family I have found myself moving all kinds of the chess pieces of my life so that I might attend both reunions. Who will I meet when I do? With the exception of a very few people I still do chat with, so many years have passed that literally everyone I see will be someone I am pretty much meeting for the first time.

40 years is a lot of years of growth and change.

Who will my classmates be meeting when they see me for the first time in at least 30 years (I went to one school’s 10th)? Judging by a post on our Reunion FB page in which a classmate unearthed some commentary about our class from graduation day I will be largely unrecognizable. You see (and this gets back to who you think you are and who others see you as being) what I once thought of as self-assurance and confidence came across (to some people at least) as self-centeredness and arrogance. This is not really a revelation mind you, nor is the re-appearnace of this item from Graduation Day distressing. I’ve long held that I was an arrogant putz when I was a young man, although that may have been a part of whatever successes I may have accrued over the years; I pretty much always assumed I was gonna turn out OK.

What does bother me though, at least the me of the last 20 or so years, is the possibility (probability?) that my younger self may have run roughshod over people who didn’t deserve anything rough out of me at all. That does make me sad, frankly. You see, a large part of my own personal development, the ongoing changes to the person I try to see in the mirror (and project for any and all to see in me) is a foundation of kindness in all that I do and in all that I am. It’s hard–no, impossible– to be good at all times, and I’m not sure at all that you can be truly kind always and everywhere. But you can try, and it is in the trying that I have evolved over the years.

Who will my classmates remember as they think about our upcoming reunions? Will our memories of the children we were be so strong that we will be prevented from seeing the adults we have become? Regardless it’s been an interesting part of the journey to be reminded of who people thought I was so long ago and to peruse the pages of each intervening “Yearbook” as I’ve gone from cocky teenage jock to whatever it is I am today.

Wow. 40 years.

New Year’s Day and Forgiveness

New Year’s Day. Brand new year. In the general scheme of things, in reality that is, time marked by a calendar is one of the most artificial constructs yet created by man. Beth’s mare is blissfully unaware that it is January 1st; she knows only that she is 6 months away from her first foal.

Indeed, men and woman across the globe have not even settled on a single calendar, let alone a single New Year’s Day.

Yet this concept, the start of something new, is like many of our uniquely human constructs in that it allows us to consider a course of action that may actually be unique to us. On this first day of the new calendar year we can choose to take, or give, a Mulligan. A re-do or a re-boot. We can choose to purposely and purposefully walk away from a memory that should be better than it was. We can seek to un-do the effects of an ill-advised word or action by apologizing and asking for forgiveness.

More importantly we can reach out, make the first move, and offer forgiveness.

Memories are funny things, aren’t they? As I wrote last week or the week before, left to our own devices what we remember is mostly how we felt at any given time or place or happening. Beth took a really cool pic at lunch the other day with some of our kids utilizing her mad selfie skills (she’s not quite as on board with the “just remember, don’t click” thing as I am). Lunch made me giggle, made me proud, made me a little bit sad. What will I remember, with or without the epic panoramic selfie, next year or 5 or 10 or 20 years from now?

There’s a woman my age with whom I went to high school who is still very angry about how she remembers being treated as a young woman. I was in school with this group of classmates for only 3 years so my memories of my high school mates are more shallow than the kids I grew up with. Pretty OK high school memories to be truthful, but my young life was admittedly a smooth sail for the most part. I’ve oft said that I was a bit too pleased with myself as a youngster and a young man, but I’d like to think that a life’s course that has forged a very real sense of humility has sanded away some of the edges and armor that prevented me from seeing any part I may have played in her unhappiness. We only remember our own emotions, but time with all of our emotions tends to open us up to the realization that others may remember stuff, and us, differently.

And so we come to a New Year’s Day, an artificial starting line created by a creature set apart by our ability to choose. Why not take advantage of this day, however artificial it might be, and choose to let go of as much unhappiness as you can? Choose to forgive those who may have contributed to that unhappiness, especially if they have grown to be someone for whom the very thought of causing pain in another brings on a deep, abiding sorrow. Start anew. Fresh. Why not?

Remember, as arbitrary and contrived as it may be, January 1st always starts with “Happy” and New”.

I’ll see you next year…