This summer, my 20 year high school reunion is taking place in a little town in southern Alabama. I am still not sure if I will be able to attend, but I really hope to go.
I did not have the best high school experience, but it was not terrible either. I had friends and boyfriends. I participated in extracurricular activities. I was an excellent student. In fact, I was a Valedictorian and gave the Commencement speech at graduation. And I was even voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in my high school yearbook.
Wow, that last sentence hit me like a ton of bricks as I typed it just now. What will people think if/when I return this summer? Being “Most Likely to Succeed” and Valedictorian seemed like such a big deal back then. I had so much life ahead of me. All I had to do was go out and stake my claim.
But I look at myself now and wonder, what happened?
Now don’t get me wrong. I am a happily married Army wife and mother to 6 AH-MAZING children. I get to see miracles happen every day as my little ones discover new things about the world around them and my teenagers make profound statements (amid the umms, uhs, and whatevers).
I am proud of my husband’s accomplishments in his military career. He even attributes much of his own success to me…he says things like “When we get promoted,” or “When we take command,” even though he is the one being promoted or taking command. But I am fortunate that he recognizes my efforts.
Still, there is a small twinge that pinches deep in my gut when I imagine where I thought I would be by now as compared to where I really am. I thought I would have have attained some level of mastery at something by now. But I still feel like the 18-year-old graduate who is not sure what she wants to do with her life.
And I feel like I still have not mastered even the mostbasic tasks of my “job.” I am not very organized, and my housekeeping definitely leaves something to be desired. I don’t volunteer much at the kids’ school, and I don’t spend a lot of time working for charities or other causes. I sort of play with my kids by acting silly and dancing with them when their favorite songs come on the radio or t.v. But I don’t plan out a lot of structured developmental activities for them. I cook delicious meals, but not always the healthiest.
So, if my 18-year-old self were to look at the woman I have become, what would she think? Would she consider me successful?
Sadly, I have to say that she probably would not. But that is because of her limited view of success.
The average 18-year-old knows how hard it is to study for days on end for finals. She does not know how hard it is for a woman to stay on bed rest for weeks just trying to get her twin babies to be viable before she goes into labor and delivers two precious premies.
She knows the heartbreak of a boy leaving her at a dance for another girl. She does not know the heartbreak of sending her husband of 15 years off to war for the 3rd time as she stays behind on a military post far from family with 4 small children to care for.
She knows the pressure of finishing a term paper on time and hoping that it “makes the grade.” She does not know the pressure of paying household bills and hoping that no major emergency occurs in the near future, since she does not yet have a strong emergency fund.
She understands having to go to work even though she is tired from staying out too late with friends the night before. She does not understand having to be “on” for her older children even though the sick baby was up crying nonstop for more than two hours straight the night before.
No, she would not look at me and say that I am successful. She would think that I am “just a wife and mother”. But she would be wrong. And I do not blame her for that. She grew up in a society that patronizingly told her that being a stay-at-home-mom was honorable, but it did not reflect that sentiment in the values it forced upon her. It was something that was for some folks, but not for her. Society had told her that she was “more.”
Well, having teenage daughters of my own now, I can look back at that sweet young lady and smile. She was indeed naive. She had no idea what skills she would have to acquire to make her life work. And she could not have pictured where life would take her.
I have many years ahead of me to pursue my dreams. But as I grow older, I find that my dreams are changing. They are evolving. I am thankful for the last 20 years, and I look forward to the next two decades.
I still have a lot of growing and maturing to do (don’t we all?) I have not yet mastered the parts of my life that I want to master. And I am not sure that I ever really will. But as long as I am moving forward, refusing to repeat mistakes from the past, and remaining open to the life God wants to place before me, then I know I am on the right path.
And if I am able to attend that reunion, even with my “mommy body” and less than impressive professional resume, I will hold my head high, and know that I am a success.