Love, Loss and Lessons
30 Years of Reflection
Illustration by Aaron Roseli. © Style Media Group
My high school reunion is this month.
I don’t want to say how many years, but it’s somewhere between 29 and 31. I don’t feel like an old guy, and when my buddies and I get together I don’t think we look like the cast from a Flomax commercial just yet. But I’m not gonna lie – it feels a little weird. Yet at the same time, it feels kind of normal. It feels right. I don’t want to be the guy who tries vainly to cling to a youth no longer there. We’ve all seen what that’s done to Bruce Jenner. Heck, I’m just the opposite: I’m grateful for the inexorable passage of time. It beats the alternative.
I don’t look at the last 30 years and pine for days gone by. Seriously, can anyone legitimately long for acid-washed jeans or wine coolers? The only thing I genuinely miss from my youth is my jump shot.
As for the rest of it? Are you kidding me? Forget for a moment the amazing world events we’ve witnessed the past three decades, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, phones that do everything but cook dinner, and that weird Austrian bodybuilder dude from Conan the Barbarian getting elected the actual governor of an actual state. From a purely selfish standpoint, I’ve been blessed with 30 years to try and improve myself as a person, which is good, because I’m a slow learner. (In fact, I wonder if Home Depot would consider opening a chain of self-improvement stores? But I digress.) I look back on how much I didn’t know and shake my head. Although, to be fair, in 30 years I’ll probably look back on this part of my life and shake my head. Which makes me realize: My future self is kind of a smug, patronizing jerk.
There were a lot of land mines to be stepped over the past three decades, a lot of lessons that could only be learned the hard way. Through those years, ignorance wasn’t just bliss, it was my personal concierge. If not, I would’ve understood that 24-percent interest on my first credit card did not mean that Visa only took a 24-percent interest in whether or not I made my payments on time. Plus, I would’ve realized that no matter how white my sport jacket or how carefully cultivated my five o’clock shadow was, I still would never remotely resemble either Crockett or Tubbs.
Thankfully, I did do some things right. I finished college. I married someone smarter than me. I saw Van Halen before Sammy Hagar came along. I wasn’t a complete dolt.
But as fun and indispensable as the last 30 years were to the life I have today, I wouldn’t trade one single second of now for anything back then. And that includes ground-floor stock in Starbucks.
So, you see? I still have plenty to learn. In fact, probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that life is nothing but lessons. Even though you graduate, school never really ends.