Friday, January 31, 2014

My High School Yearbook Threw Me Into A Mid-Life Crisis

Next year, my high school batch (or class, as most Americans call it) will be celebrating our silver jubilee.  Yes, it's been 25 years since I graduated from high school and frankly, it shocks me.  When I was younger, I've always felt like the silver jubilarians were ancient women. (We are an all-girls Catholic school).  But now I clearly, and conveniently, know better!

As silver jubilarians, our batch is now the one in charge of hosting next year's alumni homecoming and so everyone has been particularly active on Facebook trying to get in touch with one another.  Recently, a batchmate of mine posted another person's yearbook write-up, and this naturally prompted me to pull out my copy of our yearbook and review what was written about me.

I had honestly forgotten about the write-up.  Nothing. No memory of it at all whatsoever.  I wanted to build up some suspense and so I checked out the others' write-ups first before reading mine.

Generally, a lot of the other ladies had some sort of description of their personalities and then linking those to some predicted future career. Some were predicted to be doctors, while others were to be physical therapists or nurses. Some were sure to end up in theater, and a number were dead set on pursuing a career in business or finance.

When I finally got to mine, there was nothing;  no clue as to what I might be good at some day in terms of a career, or which direction my future might go. Nothing specific, and this somewhat disappointed me, for I was hoping to find a clue that might lead to a gift or skill I've always had that could help me determine what to do next with my life.  I don't resent the person who wrote this about me because they were all pleasant things.  But as you can see, it's all about my personal traits and tendencies at the time.

The hairstyle, body size/weight, as well as the spelling of my 'second' name are all dead giveaways that this was pulled out from a different lifetime. (And I'm sure they meant 'Scorpio', not scorpion)

If anything, I'm actually more disappointed in myself now than if I had just found out that I didn't end up in a career that was predicted for me more than two decades ago.  It's one thing to see that you didn't end up as a doctor or a Nobel prize winner.  It's another to ask yourself where that person went, that person being described in that relic from 24 years ago.

What happened to her?  The Scorpio-ness is still very much alive.  But what about that part that has so much zest for life?  Corny jokes and the smiles, yes, sure, occasionally.  But the girl overflowing with positive thoughts?  I wonder.  This write-up makes me imagine a girl, all sunshine and energy.  But I don't see that girl anymore.

Yes, I still smile, maybe more than others.  But I don't think of myself as particularly positive and definitely won't claim to be a ball of energy and light. I've grown jaded, much less enthusiastic, and definitely more skeptical.  Do life and aging generally do this to people?  The older one gets, the more challenges one naturally encounters.  And though we find ourselves triumphant most times, finding solace in the fact that we haven't gotten completely plowed down by life's hardships or heartbreaks and other soul-draining encounters, we also can't deny that such things transform and harden us.  Certain spots get strengthened, while others are weakened.  It's all part of living and aging.  

I could mourn the 'death' of that teenager filled with optimism and zest for life.  Or I could celebrate the fact that at least once I was that person.  And maybe part of her is still around, although hopefully balanced with a more solid sense of reality.  At the time that picture was taken, that person hasn't fallen in love; hasn't had her heart broken; has not struggled with a job she knew she was wrong for; has not had the chance to expose herself to the wider world where real poverty and political injustice breathe; has not had the chance to have intelligent discourses with some of the best in the academe; has not traveled outside the country; has not experienced uprooting herself from her country of origin to start a new life and learn new norms and grapple with new taken-for-granted realities; has not had a child, nor lost a child. That girl in the picture has not had the privilege of getting acquainted with real pain, and so didn't have yet the untiring intransigence to hold on to love, real friendships and joy.

She didn't know it all and she still doesn't.  But I'd like to believe that we are allowed to know enough at any point in our journeys to just keep us going; enough to convince us that there is more ahead to look forward to, smile for, be positive about and have corny jokes for.  We have all that we need at every moment.  I hope we can all find peace in that knowledge.

8 comments:

  1. I don't even have my HS yearbook with me! I'm hoping that it's somewhere in our house in the Philippines, though.

    Like you, I would be doubly frantic about the reunion...I'm not sure what you're reasons would be but for me, it would be, firstly, my unavoidable fault of comparing myself with the young, skinny, quiet, wallflower girl I was to the older, plumper, somewhat gregarious (my coping mechanism in social situations) woman I am now. Secondly, comparing this current version of myself to the still, if not better, more glamorous, slimmer versions of our batch mates.

    Then, after realizing how the yearbook can and will surface during the reunion, I now have a third reason to panic: I don't remember what was written about me but, I do remember being full of academic aspirations. I believe I wanted to be a physiotherapist, earn another degree in psychology, and then, get a medical degree. Talk about having a tunnel vision of what I wanted my life to be!

    Not that there's anything wrong with academic aspirations but, looking back, I really didn't have any social life! I was so focused on studies that even my writeup reflected that. It makes me think I was so boring, so flat, so one-tracked. No wonder I stopped at one degree after experiencing life in college! Haha.

    Do I regret not fulfilling the writeup? Not really. I'm actually glad I was able to pursue and enjoy the other things in life other than academia. Sure, there are moments when I wonder the "what ifs" but, I don't dwell on them. I am where I chose to be and it may not be perfect for some but, it's my own little perfect.

    Besides, achieving at least one of those three degrees (BS Physical Therapy) isn't bad. It actually opened doors for me that I otherwise wouldn't know existed!

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    1. Tess, I'm pretty sure you love who you've become and are comfortable with your choices. I think I'm speaking for both of us when I say that I think we're more relaxed in our skins now, in spite of our imperfections, flabs and all. We've grown so much wiser and more forgiving of our selves and others. It will always be scary to compare ourselves with others who think / perceive to be more glamorous than us. But in truth, nobody has it all. Right? ;-))

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  2. I don't even have my HS yearbook with me! I'm hoping that it's somewhere in our house in the Philippines, though.

    Like you, I would be doubly frantic about the reunion...I'm not sure what you're reasons would be but for me, it would be, firstly, my unavoidable fault of comparing myself with the young, skinny, quiet, wallflower girl I was to the older, plumper, somewhat gregarious (my coping mechanism in social situations) woman I am now. Secondly, comparing this current version of myself to the still, if not better, more glamorous, slimmer versions of our batch mates.

    Then, after realizing how the yearbook can and will surface during the reunion, I now have a third reason to panic: I don't remember what was written about me but, I do remember being full of academic aspirations. I believe I wanted to be a physiotherapist, earn another degree in psychology, and then, get a medical degree. Talk about having a tunnel vision of what I wanted my life to be!

    Not that there's anything wrong with academic aspirations but, looking back, I really didn't have any social life! I was so focused on studies that even my writeup reflected that. It makes me think I was so boring, so flat, so one-tracked. No wonder I stopped at one degree after experiencing life in college! Haha.

    Do I regret not fulfilling the writeup? Not really. I'm actually glad I was able to pursue and enjoy the other things in life other than academia. Sure, there are moments when I wonder the "what ifs" but, I don't dwell on them. I am where I chose to be and it may not be perfect for some but, it's my own little perfect.

    Besides, achieving at least one of those three degrees (BS Physical Therapy) isn't bad. It actually opened doors for me that I otherwise wouldn't know existed!

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  3. Joy, your depth is what has polished your beauty through the years. I suspect when we were in school, we projected more than expressed ourselves. That's why we seem so different now. In reality, we just needed to grow to know ourselves. And I think that in some cases, discovering our passions in life comes as a reward, maybe after devoting ourselves to child rearing, when we at last have time for ourselves. The best is yet to come!

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  4. The first time I landed on your blog (a couple of years ago), I thought you were familiar. And now I know why...we're from the same school, and I'm just a year your junior. I wonder where my yearbook is lol! I don't remember what was written about me either, but like you, I am most sure I am a very different person. I've always been mostly introvert so I guess the writers for the yearbook don't quite know what to say about me hahaha!

    I'll try to look for my yearbook. Just curious what they said about me...about the fragile, shy girl who lived a very sheltered life. I've come a long way, going out of that shell or that rock where I've always been hiding. People have expectations of us...but isn't it great when we even exceed those expectations and come out a better person?

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    1. It's really a small world, isn't it, Aileen?! That's too funny! Glad to have found you and be found by you, fellow Theresian! And I agree that exceeding expectations feels great :-))

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  5. I need to make a confession now: we French don't have year books. We just had a book with our name & picture at the start of the year, and that was it...nothing else at all. And you know what? I think it is probably better. I wouldn't want to go back.

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    1. I understand the 'dangers' of looking back as I had clearly talked above, Muriel. But personally, I prefer having the option and even freely doing so. Looking back doesn't mean 'going back'. Sometimes, it's good and healthy to be reminded of the past, or where we came from so that hopefully we can be guided in a positive way towards authentic growth. To some people, looking back enhances a sense of gratitude as well. I still think looking back has its gifts, as long as you don't give in to its less-than-desirable costs at times.

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Let me know your thoughts!