Sunday, June 19, 2011

Forty And Looking Back

Today, I turn forty years old. Not bad, all things considered. Beautiful wife, two amazing kids, home in a town I love, a fecund backyard garden.

As I roll over another zero into the units digit of the odometer of life, something interesting happened that has caused me to reconnect with - and think about - a lot of the people I went to high school with.

That something interesting is Facebook. Over the the span of two years, my entire graduating class from Davis Senior High School seemed to suddenly show up and start friending each other. I kept in touch with very few people from home and so I've been reconnecting, after twenty years, with the people I grew up with. I've learned about their lives and seen photos of their kids and read about their travels.

And I mean your lives and your kids and your travels: because I'm talking to you, graduating class of 1989. And, to be fair, a few of you who graduated a year or two earlier or later who I was close enough with that I think of you as part of my class.

Back then we were, with apologies to John Hughes, brains, musicians, jocks, partiers, and goths. We hung out in our cliques and did our different activities. We crossed social boundaries sometimes, uneasily and tentatively. But it was high school and we all had our domains and our coteries. But we were also all a bunch of kids growing up in a reasonably affluent university town on the edge of some very good farmland.

We didn't know it then, but we were all so damn alike that the only thing we could focus on was our differences.

Fast forward twenty years or more.

What are we now? Who are we now?

We are fathers, we are mothers, we are married, we are single, we are divorced.

We are gay, we are straight, we are flexible.

We are conservative, we are liberal, we are undecided.

We are project managers, we are musicians, we are farmers, we are entrepreneurs, we are artists, we are lawyers, we are restauranteurs, we are law enforcement officers, we are opera singers, we are bartenders, we are writers, we are programmers, we are veterinary pathologists.

A staggering number of us are teachers.

Some of us are expatriates, some of us never left town, some of us have come back home.

At least one of us has been to war.

A very few of us have died.

So much diversity, so much variety of experience and outcome. And yet today I feel closer to a broader range of the people that made up my graduating class than I ever have.

What happened?

We all went on that strange, crooked pathway called life. No one took a path that quite matched what they expected or what anyone else expected for them. Some paths were radically surprising, some merely crooked. Some triumphant, some quotidian.

If there had been a yearbook category "Most likely to play in a major symphony orchestra," I think the predictions might have been pretty good. But I doubt that the eventual winners of "Most likely to raise backyard chickens" or "Most likely to post photomicrographs to Facebook" or "Most likely to become the leading academic authority on American Idol" would have been so obvious back in 1989.

In 2011, we all sit down at the end of the day and try to unwind from the stresses of an adult life, whatever form that life might take. We might worry about the economy or climate change or health care or school selection or taxes or bills or the future. We might have a glass of beer or wine or bourbon or tea or coffee to help us relax. We might unwind playing a LARP or watching a show or hitting a round of golf or going for a run or pushing through a Crossfit WOD.

But it is the journey, from a small town on the outskirts of Sacramento to here, wherever here is and whatever waypoints passed on the way, that has brought us closer. We've learned about ourselves and about each other, about what it means to be a man or a woman in the world.

Twenty years on, we are all now so different that all we can do is focus on our similarities.

Hello again, graduating class of 1989, it is a real pleasure to get to know you.

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