Yesterday my local paper published an article about me. Many years ago, in high school, I won an award given by them to local high school students for leadership, community and achievement — and for not being a psycho hormonal freak, I guess! The series basically followed up on winners at various intervals; I guess this year was my jackpot. I’m super embarrassed about my picture and I feel like the world’s biggest dork, but that’s to be expected, I suppose, because being in front of cameras turns me into a big dork.
It’s a fine article and I’m flattered to have been asked, but of course deep down I had FEELINGS. When I got the call that the paper wanted to talk to me, it brought me back to a time in my life when I could do everything and be everything to everyone and I had a whole future ahead of me: one filled with the promise of great success, achievement and general fabulosity. When I was 17, I had nothing but a glittering path ahead. I hadn’t disappointed anyone with my life choices. I hadn’t disappointed myself with my failures and my wrong decisions, my own stubbornness and short-sightedness, my blind spots and my willful attachments. Talking to the reporter, trying to explain my life and why I ended up back in my hometown — after years of vowing never to come back! — I felt haunted by the ghost of who I was then, by her idealism, her great expectations, her perhaps typically arrogant adolescence, her general feeling of how huge and vast and epic the future was going to be.
Of course, the future — always a big vague place, I guess — came and went, and here I am, 20 years later. In truth, I could never picture myself at this age. When I was 17 — and now I think what a baby-age that was — I could only see up through college. At the end of college, I could maybe see up to 23 or 24. And at 25, I could maybe see to 30. Anything past 30 was vaguely old — settled, ensconced, patterns established. If you had pressed me at 17, I felt vaguely I’d still be in a big city at the age I’m at now. I thought maybe I’d be partnered and had an idea I’d be hugely fabulous. At something equally vague but fabulous, no doubt. Somewhere along the path, I became a creature of moments.
Of course, there were surprises on the way, and the most surprising things of all that you discover in the course of living your life are all about yourself. How your eyes drink in a wide horizon. How fragile your father’s hand becomes when he’s lying in a hospital bed. How you fall in love with someone in the very place you once regarded as a romantic desert, barren of anyone who could think of you as beautiful. The surprising things that change who you are and the sense of what life offers you. The future still looms in front of you, even years later — only you walk forward with stronger, surer footing, knowing better who you really are.