Before you read on, take a moment to turn on Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.” It was playing through my mind the entire time I typed this post.
The ballad was my high school class song, as it was for many who graduated around the early aughts. Every time it plays on the radio, I pause, crack a wistful smile, and feel a wave of nostalgia.
This is especially true in 2021, with 20 years behind me since graduation.
This isn’t to say I want to go back to high school. Or college for that matter. Ok, maybe I’d take a time-traveling week of vacation back to my late 20s. You know, back when happy hour meant a cocktail with coworkers at a trendy watering hole, instead of the hour you cave on screen time just to make dinner in peace.
I cringe when I recall my teenage immaturity, longing to be liked, or class rank-chasing. Not to mention how I had it all figured out: promising career launched out of college at 22, married by 25, first baby (a girl) by 29. How charming.
Part of me wants to slip that high schooler a triangle-folded note with self-affirmations, encouragement to take more (healthy) risks, and a list of what really matters. Sister, it’s not your GPA.
I want to spare that little girl from any heartache or unmet expectations ahead. I find myself hoping and trying to shield my own kids from all the missteps of inexperience and the harsh realities of the world.
And yet – they’d miss out on learning it all the way most humans learn best: experience.
“For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while.”
All of it led me to where I am now, a better version of what I always dreamed of. My path wasn’t the shortest distance from A to B, with its many curves, roadblocks, and u-turns.
That imperfection made it all the richer.
“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right.”
I got married later than anticipated, but it led me to the greatest and sweetest love. I left my career to stay home with my kids, but I finally focused on two of my biggest loves: my boys and writing. I gave up the freedom to attend the latest goings-on around town, but I devoted time to going deeper in my faith than ever before.
I remember being on the cusp of graduation, my heart overwhelmed with excitement and fear, feeling as if I stood on a life summit. Oh, sweet girl. It is a milestone, but nowhere near a pinnacle.
“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go.”
This reluctance towards change returned over and again at many unexpected twists over those 20 years, fueled by worry that the next season wouldn’t be as good as the last. And while both joy and turmoil paved the path, goodness and growth emerged from each change.
Today, as another season change seems to be blowing through our lives, I am once again clinging to the things I hold dear. How can this change be good for us? How can it get better?
Whatever happens, I know there will be goodness. In the end, it will be right.
As for high school, I’m not sad it’s over, but I sure am glad it happened – just like all the years that followed and are yet to come.
“I hope you had the time of your life.”