Flashbacks and fast-forwards
My high school classmates got together in my hometown this evening.
They were in Ohio. I’m in Florida with a schedule that didn’t allow for travel this week, and so I missed out on the gathering. I spent the evening eagerly looking forward to photos popping up on Facebook.
Who would have ever thought in 1981 that we’d one day have tiny cordless portable telephones that work as cameras and handheld computers? Who would have imagined Facebook?
We came from three K-8 elementary schools in a rural part of Ohio and consolidated into one graduating high school class of 88 people. We were our own small town, and our worlds were still small and mostly untried by life.
It was hard to be me in high school, mainly because I had no idea who me was. I was a confined and compliant restless creative who was reasonably smart, but I wasn’t pretty and I was a total train wreck at all things physical besides marching band. I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t friendless; there were six of us girls who’d known each other since we were very young, and we stuck together during the high school years, too. They loved me, and I loved them. But I still felt like an outsider drowning in my own life. All I knew is that I was Different in ways I couldn’t articulate, the kind of ways that keep an insecure teenager on the Uncool-But-Not-Outcast list. I didn’t know how to be ok with that. It would be many years before I would make peace with my kind of Different, and even come to love it. But back then, it felt like a social death sentence.
Fast forward a few decades. I’ve since lived at countless addresses in seven states. I finished a degree that I never officially used. I married Mr. Sparky and raised four beautiful, brilliant, creative, and delightfully strange children, one of which has produced four beautiful, brilliant, creative, and delightfully strange Grand Sparks. I’ve picked up and abandoned dozens of creative pursuits because the world of creativity is just too huge to park in one corner of it. I found out I could do hard things. I eventually discovered who me was, and subsequently found out that I actually liked me in spite of a host of quirks, flaws, and peculiarities. I finally began to believe it was cool to not be one of the cool kids.
The truth is, I wouldn’t want to be 18 again for anything. The skin and the more slender frame might be nice, but not worth the angst.
I looked at the pictures of my beautiful classmates coming across the screen tonight. I don’t think I knew how beautiful they were when we were young, because when I looked at them all I could see was how I didn’t measure up to the invisible (and self-created) standard that loomed in my mind. But I long ago released myself from that impossible standard; I don’t care about measuring up anymore. I now look at them and I see life. And even though I wasn’t there to hug the necks and share in the stories, I look at them and instinctively know some things to be true.
Our faces are no longer unlined, but the smiles are now tried and tested by the fires of life. Joy, even in the form of a smile for a camera, is a choice, and we understand the other options because we’ve experienced pain, disappointment, and loss that we couldn’t even fathom at 18. We’ve laughed and cried harder than we ever knew possible; we’ve raged and we’ve loved. We all now know that we can do hard things, because we’ve done them. We’ve been amazed by our own strength, and devastated by our weaknesses.
We have all lived a story we couldn’t even imagine at 18.
We have said goodbye a few of our classmates, their stories over far too soon. But for the most part we still have chapters left to live.
Personally, I plan to pack mine full. I have Important Things to do for (and with) a King I love and a kingdom I long to see established on earth as it is in heaven. I have a legacy to leave. I have creative exploits I haven’t even thought of yet. The possibilities are literally endless.
The next time my classmates get together, I hope to be in their midst fully being my own introverted but not shy Different self—purple hair, warped sense of humor, and all. Until then, there’s Facebook.
It’s good to be alive in 2016.