40 Years After High School: Our Lives So Far

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1979. Hard to believe it’s really been 40 years since we walked out of Elgin High School for the last time as students.

In that time, we’ve seen 7 presidencies. We’ve witnessed U.S. military involvement in Grenada, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other places. We endured the tragedy of 9-11 and its social/political aftermath. We made our way through The Great Recession.

The Walkman became the Discman which became the iPod which became your cell phone.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was reborn. Van Halen broke up—over and over. Lennon, Marley, Harrison, Stevie Ray, Prince and Petty died. (Somehow, Ozzy and Keith Richards are still alive!)

A whole lot of stuff happened in four decades. Good, bad, and in-between.

In the meantime, we lived our lives.

And here we are.

Sadly, some of our friends and classmates didn’t live to see this day.

We did. Lucky us.

40 years out seems like a good point at which to contemplate Our Lives So Far.

Maybe your life has been (and is) largely very good: good health, a strong marriage, happy and healthy kids, career success, personal happiness, and financial stability. Maybe, as Jack Nicholson once put it in one of his famous roles, your life has been mostly “boat rides and noodle soup.” I hope so. If that’s you, I’m genuinely happy for you. You have much to be grateful for, and much to feel a sense of personal pride about. Kudos and a serious high-five to you!

That describes some of us, certainly. But … probably not most of us.

Where do you and I fit on the “It’s A Wonderful Life” continuum?

Well, we’re closing in on our sixth decade of life. That’s enough time to have assured that most of us have gotten our asses kicked somewhere along the way. Probably more than once.

A divorce we hadn’t planned on. An illness that scared the hell out of us. A prodigal child (or two). Unexpected loss of security. Deaths of people we loved very much.

Some bad stuff happened because we made poor choices. Some bad stuff just plain happened, regardless of how sensible our choices may have been. Same with good stuff.

I don’t really have any interest in comparing houses or cars.

Maybe that’s because it’s a comparison I wouldn’t come out looking too spectacular in. I’m honest enough to admit that. I haven’t reached a point where I’ve transcended all ego-driven thinking. Not by a long shot. I’d kinda like showing up in a pearl-white Escalade with my supermodel girlfriend. But, I’d have to rent both of those!

Really, I don’t care about your car or your house. I mean, if they’re super awesome? That’s great. It really is. It doesn’t make me resent you. It’s totally cool. You should appreciate and celebrate those kinds of things, enjoy them for all their worth.

“Happiness is fleeting. Grab it like a firefly and never let it go.” I love this quote. It’s both beautiful and true.

40 years out of high school, we are everywhere on the Happy and Secure continuum: from “Thriving Ridiculously” to “Almost Not Making It.”

We are each of infinite value, we each hold infinite promise, regardless of where we are on that imaginary line.

Our lives are always in flux. Blessings and hardships come and go. And they will just keep doing that. Until we breathe our last breath.

This breath, the one you’re pulling into your lungs right now, that’s the one real, tangible thing you and I have. Learning to see each one as an incredibly profound, magnificent, and mysterious gift … that’s our primary duty to ourselves and those we love … whether we live in a mansion with our lovely family, or are temporarily crashing on our cousin’s couch wondering if anyone in our family of origin has thought of us today.

I’d love to make myself the hero of this story, but that would be dishonest.

I’m just like you. I got some stuff right. I got some stuff terribly wrong. I’m a mixed bag. I’m still figuring it out.

I am, however, incredibly grateful. I was given so much. I still have so much. I am super fortunate and blessed in a thousand ways and I won’t allow myself to forget it.

I want to be a better person tomorrow than I was today. I want to grow as a person, in every way I can. I want to be less selfish and more loving. I want to hoard less, and give more.

I look forward to seeing Elgin High School’s Class of 1979 this weekend. If we can be open, warm, and kind towards each other, wouldn’t that be a great 40th anniversary gift to both give and receive?

That’s all I got.

Oh yeah … if we’re very fortunate indeed, we’ll see each other in 2029!

–Jim Wormington

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