Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Perspective...Through the Years












I have run across some old photos in the last few weeks. It has been interesting to note the changes as well as recall the history behind each photo. Each photo is also representative of what I did NOT know at the time each photo was taken. For example...

In the 1968 photo, my whole life journey was just beginning. I was acclimating to life in a very big world. I didn't know how to walk, talk, read, write, feed myself, and, I was not..., er, housebroken. So many experiences awaited me. I didn't know what going to school would be like. I had yet to experience the joy of making friends.

In the 1982 photo, I knew what going to elementary and middle school was like. I had experienced it. When this photo was taken, I was in the 8th grade. I had the experience of making friends. One friendship in particular would become a lifelong one that defines us both. I had experienced the divorce of my parents by this time. What I had yet to experience was high school. If memory serves, I was actually contemplating this when the picture was snapped. I did not yet know the joy and pain of the teenage years. There were many experiences that would be had over the next four years.

In the 1986 photo, I am smiling big because I had finished high school and was standing on the precipice of new opportunities. My whole life was before me, and I could be or do anything I wanted to. I was all set for college, and I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had friends who, I did not know at the time, would become lifelong companions and literally be like family. I had experienced "puppy love," dating, and heartbreak. I had a driver's license and a crummy yet beautiful 1978 Honda Civic that I had bought for $400.00. Even as I look at the photo, I am finding it hard to remember what it felt like to be that happy and free. Which brings me to the last picture.

In the 2009 photo, I am not smiling. I am happy, but I am also a lot more seasoned. I have experienced marriage, having children, divorce, bankruptcy, re-marriage, career changes, address changes, loss of loved ones including my estranged father, and many shattered dreams. Life after high school was much harder than I was prepared for. Adulthood has it's rewards, to be sure. Watching my children being born and growing into young men and women is a joy that can hardly be expressed in words.

As with all the other photos and times, there are still a lot of things I don't know. For example, I don't know what it feels like to be old. I joke about being old, but I am still only 41. My body still functions quite well. My mind is still sharp. Physically, I could use some work, but I can still exercise and move on my own. I don't yet know what being a grandparent feels like. All of my friends are still living. I probably have just as many days ahead as there are behind.

I sometimes wonder what I would say to myself if I could go back and talk to those young lads. I will close out this piece with just a few things that come to mind:

1) To the 1968 me, I would tell him to be more assertive with the neighborhood kids, and to not always avoid confrontation. I would also say that it was not cool at all to pee in Andy Nelson's closet, even though he probably deserved it.

2) To the 1982 me, I would congratulate him on a great year. The 8th grade me seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. He was a heck of a football player and made awesome grades. If I could offer him one piece of advice, it would be to keep writing no matter what happens.

3) To the 1986 me, I would have to have a long sit down with him. I would somehow try to convince him that college was going to be a lot harder than he realized, and that although he was very smart, he lacked good common sense. I would tell him that college can be fun, but you cannot have so much fun that you neglect your studies and classes. I would advise him to stay the course, no matter what. I would strongly caution him about drinking and driving. I would also teach him how to take care of himself and to never expect a woman to do that for him. I would tell him to be a man and cowboy up and to stop waiting for things to happen. Todd, go make things happen. You can and you should! I would tell him this as I grabbed him by the lapels to make sure he understood that admonishment.

The only thing I can say to the 2009 Todd is to somehow turn his situation around. Find a way and do it! I would also remind him that it's not so important how we start, but how we finish. We cannot undo the past, but we can change our present and look hopeful to the future.
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