Every ten years I face a major High School Reunion. 20 years, 30, 40, and now I’m up to 50 years in June of 2017. Whenever reunion time approaches, I go through a period of self-doubt and indecision. Do I really want to go? What can I say about my life? To be honest, I don’t feel I’ve “accomplished” much which leaves me feeling insecure talking to my High School classmates about our respective life trajectories.
I was one of the top students in my Fieldston High School Class of ’67. If we had done the “most likely to” labels in our senior yearbook, I’d probably have been one of the most likely to “succeed”.
However, I chose a path that was unusual for my generation of Baby Boomers. I practiced law for a mere three years before I gave up my legal career and opted to be a full-time, stay-at-home Mother and homemaker. After the kids left home, I taught Yoga and tried to start a small business from home. I never had another full-time job. I don’t regret the choices I made – except when High School reunions roll around.
Everyone else has probably had one or even two long-term careers to talk about, in addition to having families. Many may also have had individual achievements to brag about along the way. I don’t have much to talk about at all, at least concerning career and work.
I decided, for my own sanity, the best way to measure my life is in terms of experiences I’ve had – and survived. When you count negative, challenging, out of the norm experiences, the picture changes and suddenly, I’ve had a full life.
I spent much of my life dealing with some form of mental illness. My own anxiety and depression. My first husband’s bi-polar disorder, complete with long-lasting and severe manic episodes. My son’s depression, bi-polar disorder, and learning disabilities — all of which made getting him through school an ordeal for the whole family.
Then there are medical issues. My grandfather was hit by a truck and spent six-weeks, brain-dead in the hospital before he died. I nursed my grandmother, father, and mother through cancer. My son’s kidneys failed at the age of 24. Five years ago, I donated a kidney to keep him alive. He still struggles with kidney symptoms and medication side effects every day and will for the rest of his life.
I survived a lot of shit and I’ve come out in a good place. I’m in a wonderful second marriage, I have great friends and close relationships with my children. I have interesting hobbies. If you were to give out points for surviving with humor, decency and an upbeat attitude, then I deserve an award. That in itself is a major accomplishment.
I think it will be enough to get me through my High School reunion with my head held high.