I had the most amazing experience a few weeks ago – truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I met with high school friends I hadn’t seen in over fifty years. The last time we were together was at my wedding. By then, we were all in our early twenties, part of a large, wholesome, fun crowd who had danced our way through Saturday night parties during and after high school. That was back in the late fifties and those were great times. (I won’t say the best times—I’m living the best times right now…in my mid-seventies.) Anyway…
We all had relocated and finally lost track of each other for decades before connecting on Classmates, the high school alumni website. We started communicating and when they took a trip to Florida, they visited me at my home. Wow. Talk about surreal…to see these wonderfully familiar faces, touched by age and life as I’m sure mine appeared to them, still full of smiles and great talk, but now with a lifetime of living behind them.
Like me, they and the other friends in our crowd whom they had managed to keep in touch with are all retired. We talked about the old times, of course, but we also talked about our life and work. And, in a way, that’s where things became even more surreal. Jack had become a systems analyst, Marilyn an ob-gyn nurse and artist. I spoke of my work as an author and public speaker. Several had done very well as entrepreneurs. One had become a missile commander, another a decorated NYFD battalion chief.
The thing I marvel at is this: how and when did we learn to do all this stuff? The last time we had seen each other, we were in somewhat mundane jobs in Manhattan, only a few were in college. None of us were over-achievers. Mostly, all we really ever did in high school was show up and get our work done. None of us were in honors clubs. Back then, when together, I don’t recall us ever discussing careers or goals or five-year plans or anything like that. But this is what I love about life–things happen. Some of it bad, yes. But most of it good stuff that keeps moving us forward, growing us and making us viable, accomplished and fulfilled.
Somewhere along the line, in that beautifully evolutionary process of growing into our lives, each of us had been touched by something or someone, some idea or moment of inspiration, perhaps a person doing what we thought we might like to do, or knowing something that we might like to learn. And, somehow, as it always does, opportunity knocked and each of us answered the door in our own way and in our own time.
Sadly, not all of us made it. A few passed away too young. But, mostly, this bunch of kids who only cared about drinking cokes and listening to rock n’ roll on the juke box at Bertelson’s ice cream parlor, somehow found the path we needed to follow and, although not always successful, still overcame life’s many trials and flourished. I find that a very, very hopeful thing.