I bumped into the mom of one of my oldest friends recently at the local supermarket. Her son and I have recently reconnected and she was telling me how pleased she was that we were keeping in touch more regularly. In the middle of our conversation in the soda aisle, she mentioned that her son told her that I was more fun now than I was growing up. I laughed at that until….HEY!…what did THAT mean?? So of course, as I am wont to do, I dissected the statement as I wandered over to the check out. Here are my deep thoughts (putting on your boots at this point is optional).
As early as first grade I knew I wanted to be a teacher. It suited my personality. I was the fixer, the one with the good head on my shoulders, the one who planned to the umpteenth degree before doing anything, the one who could be counted on for a hug, a pep talk, or a ride home. My old friend was the spontaneous one. He will be the first one to tell you that he needed the pep talks and the rides home on occasion! What bound us together from the beginning was that we were two nice kids from a nice, small town, with nice, suburban families and values. Oh boy were we naive – admittedly I more than he.
We did have fun, I have to say. Mostly we had fun being goofy and getting lost countless times together – with a spectacularly poor sense of direction that afflicted no one more profoundly than the two of us! So what had happened since our school days that had made me a lot more fun?
College, moving out on my own, finding love, losing love, working in a job that has tested my strength and compassion more than any other event in my life, finding true love, keeping true love, birthing true love….all these things have shaped my core. I realized that what had changed was that with all I had seen and experienced after stepping out of my rural high school’s doors twenty years ago, I shed my isolated, small town child and grew into a teacher, then a wife, then a mom. With that came vast knowledge and understanding – some of that knowledge more than I would have liked at times…and decided that the life I’ve been given is too precious and too fleeting to hold my tongue when I see a wrong, stifle my laugh when something strikes me as funny, or stand my ground when I know what I want or need. As a result, I kiss, tickle and cuddle my son with wild abandon, I sing in public, I hug my students when they need an emotional lift, and I tell stories which illustrate my still-deplorable sense of direction, embarrassing or satisfying moments in the classroom, and hilarious reparte’ with my son. It makes me feel alive and more connected to my friends and family as brethren wandering (some of us with GPS units and maps) around this life to find our purpose and our bliss. How fun!