There are a lot of great and wonderful things about this modern world we live in. I say that with no artifice at all. I don't (much) look back and sigh over how things used to be.
But I swear. If there is one thing I miss it's talking to a real live, honest to goodness, living, breathing person -- without jumping through hoops - when I call a company.
I hate with the heat of a thousand fiery suns those automated phone menus. JUST LET ME SPEAK TO AN ACTUAL PERSON (preferably someone whose first language is English). Those recorded messages that send you hither and yon drive me around the bend.
They're not efficient. They're annoying and they frustrate and alienate customers. Like you care, AT&T U-verse.
Weekend before last we gave a party for the son of some dear friends. He and his fellow students are finishing high school, and they seemed to be exactly the way my classmates and I were at our senior parties: relaxed, confident, utterly and completely sure that we had this life thing figured out.
That's how we looked on the surface, anyway.
As I watch the kids laugh and mingle, I thought about what the adults told me and my friends, the same insights being passed on to these kids now, and the commencement speech I will give one day -- surely I'll be asked to give a commencement address, just like Neil Gaiman, Ann Patchett, Barbara Kingsolver -- began playing in my thoughts.
One of the most annoying, and downright untrue, things that people tend to tell high school graduates is that "these are the best years of your life." My commencement speech would assure them that No, no these aren’t your best years! Don't believe anyone who tells you that.
How terrible to imagine that at eighteen years old, you'd already experienced the best that life had to offer. Life for the high-schooler just isn’t as gilded as a few party hours make it appear.
Not that I had a terrible high school experience. I had love, I had family and I had friends. I wasn't bullied or ridiculed or abused, except for the abuse I heaped on myself with the constant negative self-talk that was far more cruel than anything anyone - to this day - has ever said to me. That and the beer, all the beer and Boone's Strawberry Hill that I drank every weekend. Enough drinks outshouted the pervasive self-consciousness I always felt (Am I doing this right? Is this how I'm supposed to be? Is anyone looking at me? Please nobody be looking at me.).
No one would have suspected the self-doubts I harbored so well hidden under brash show of self-confidence, friendliness, and gregariousness. On The Breakfast Club, everyone's role was clear-cut—for a while, anyway, but for me and many of my friends, high school was confusing
Neither do I believe that college are the best years of your life. My college years weren't as fraught with anxiety and mild depression and huge, sweeping mood swings as my high school years were, but I often felt like I was playing a role. When I was younger, daydreaming about college life, being a college student meant having things figured out, walking across a pretty campus, books in hand, confident and self-assured. Happy. Knowing. And thin: in my daydreams, I'm always thin. Whatever that ideal was, I wasn't anywhere near it.
When I was thirty years old, I was happier than I was when I finished high school, and happier than I was at twenty-two when I finished college. (At thirty, I was also a newly-minted mom with a six-week-old infant, who was adorable but who wasn't too taken with the whole sleeping thing. About that time I accepted that I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever sleep for more than two, three hours at a time. Still happier than I was when I graduated from high school.)
At forty, I'm happier than I was then. I am far more aware, content, happy, grateful, and alive than I've ever been before. I can't overstate that.
So students, I would say, don't ever despair when someone tells you that these are the best years of your life, that once they're gone, they're over and life is an endless, dull gray cycle of work and the general drudgery of being an adult.
It's not. Not even close. The people who are saying those things to you are looking down on you and are being, frankly, condescending. They're thinking about the mortgages you don't have to sign for and the groceries you don't have to shop for. They're imagining wholecloth some idealized, whitewashed version of their childhood and college years, a version that almost certainly is nothing like the reality was.
As an adult, I can tell you that I would not trade the grownup responsibilities I have - it's true that you will have responsibilities that aren't always fun but that's not so different, really, from the not-fun things you have in high school, like chemistry class (which I can tell you for certain that I have never, ever had to use, not even once, in real life) and term papers - I would not trade grocery lists and oil changes and carpools for five minutes to be back in high school, trying to negotiate that terrain.
Ten years ago, I would have said those were the best years of my life. Right now, these are.
May I always remember to say to the young adult commencing into the next stage of his or her life, “These are your best years yet.” Then I would add - after a meaningful pause: “The best years of your life are whenever you choose them to be. The best is when you want it to be, and when you make now the best.”
That is all, except this: “Remember to have fun. Make time for what you really like to do.”
Oh, and—“You are good enough.”
I'll stop now, but really, you are good enough.
Then, when you are that person, as important as any notable person who was every behind a podium, giving your commencement speech to the younger folks following you, you can do it with authority, thanksgiving, and joy.
I'm working on a design project and I think I like the chevron pattern now. I don't know why I found the enthusiasm for it annoying. Maybe it just grew on me.
Hosting four parties in three weeks is not a good idea. So I hear.
Our wedding anniversary was last week. We had dinner out to celebrate! Four years. Crazy how time gets away.
Are you planning to see World War Z? I think I Am Legend pretty well ruined me for those kinds of movies, so I'm going to pass. Then again... I didn't see a dog in the commercial, so maybe it'd be okay for me to watch?
Did you watch Bates Motel? It is so delightfully creepy.
My tree continues to delight. I went out there again yesterday morning and late yesterday afternoon. So not like me; I generally flee from the outdoors during the summer.
Speaking of outdoor things - the garden is growing! Bell peppers, tomatoes, green beans, squash, eggplant -- I swear, they're growing overnight. Just like my son does.
A few weeks back we talked about a group project just to use some creativity. Luckily, I had two takers: Shana, who has been a bloggy friend for several years, and Amy Lyles Wilson, who I connected with in a year that began with "19--" when she gave me a pep talk about graduate school via email.
"Southerners love a good tale. They are born reciters, great memory retainers, diary keepers, letter exchangers . . . great talkers." – Eudora Welty
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?" – Marianne Williamson