My High School Yearbook Threw Me Into A Mid-Life Crisis
Next year, my high school batch (or "class," as most Americans call it) will be celebrating our silver jubilee. Yes, it's been 25 years since I graduated from high school and frankly, it shocks me. When I was younger, I've always felt like the silver jubilarians were ancient women. (We are an all-girls Catholic school). But now I clearly, and conveniently, know better!
As silver jubilarians, our batch is now the one in charge of hosting next year's alumni homecoming and so everyone has been particularly active on Facebook trying to get in touch with one another. Recently, a batchmate of mine posted another person's yearbook write-up, and this naturally prompted me to pull out my copy of our yearbook and review what was written about me.
I had honestly forgotten about the write-up. Nothing. No memory of it at all whatsoever. I wanted to build up some suspense and so I checked out the others' write-ups first before reading mine.
Generally, a lot of the other ladies had some sort of description of their personalities linking those to some predicted future career. Some were predicted to be doctors, while others were to be physical therapists or nurses. Some were sure to end up in theater, and a number were dead set on pursuing a career in business or finance.
When I finally got to mine, there was nothing; no clue as to what I might be good at some day in terms of a career, or which direction my future might go. Nothing specific, and this somewhat disappointed me, for I was hoping to find a clue that might lead to a gift or skill I've always had that could help me determine what to do next with my life. I don't resent the person who wrote this about me, because they were all pleasant things. But as you can see, it's all about my personal traits and tendencies at the time.
The hairstyle, body size/weight, as well as the spelling of my "second" name are all dead giveaways that this was pulled out from a different lifetime. (And I'm sure they meant "Scorpio," not "scorpion")
If anything, I'm actually more disappointed in myself now than if I had just found out that I didn't end up in a career that was predicted for me more than two decades ago. It's one thing to see that you didn't end up as a doctor or a Nobel prize winner. It's another to ask yourself where that person went, that person being described in that relic from 24 years ago.
What happened to her? The Scorpio-ness is still very much alive. But what about that part that has so much zest for life? Corny jokes and the smiles, yes, sure, occasionally. But the girl overflowing with positive thoughts? I wonder. This write-up makes me imagine a girl, all sunshine and energy. But I don't see that girl anymore.
Yes, I still smile, maybe more than others. But I don't think of myself as particularly positive and definitely won't claim to be a ball of energy and light. I've grown jaded, much less enthusiastic, and definitely more skeptical. Do life and aging generally do this to people? The older one gets, the more challenges one naturally encounters. And though we find ourselves triumphant most times, finding solace in the fact that we haven't gotten completely plowed down by life's hardships or heartbreaks and other soul-draining encounters, we also can't deny that such things transform and harden us. Certain spots get strengthened, while others are weakened. It's all part of living and aging.
I could mourn the "death" of that teenager filled with optimism and zest for life. Or I could celebrate the fact that at least once I was that person. And maybe part of her is still around, although hopefully balanced with a more solid sense of reality. At the time that picture was taken, that person hasn't fallen in love; hasn't had her heart broken; has not struggled with a job she knew she was wrong for; has not had the chance to expose herself to the wider world where real poverty and political injustice breathe; has not had the chance to have intelligent discourse with some of the best in the academe; has not traveled outside the country; has not experienced uprooting herself from her country of origin to start a new life and learn new norms and grapple with new taken-for-granted realities; has not had a child, nor lost a child. That girl in the picture has not had the privilege of getting acquainted with real pain, and so didn't have yet the untiring intransigence to hold on to love, real friendships and joy.
She didn't know it all, and she still doesn't. But I'd like to believe that we are allowed to know enough at any point in our journeys to just keep us going; enough to convince us that there is more ahead to look forward to, smile for, be positive about and have corny jokes for. We have all that we need at every moment. I hope we can all find peace in that knowledge.