This year marks 30 years since I prowled the halls of my alma mater, oblivious to what the future would hold for me and my classmates. When I reflect on the person I was as a naïve teen, bold and brashly assured of where I was going and what I was going to do with my life, all I can do is belly-laugh as deeply as the Universe had surely guffawed because, boy, nothing turned out as I’d planned.
I saw a meme the other day showing a long line of people queued up, walking toward the inevitable conclusion of the next chapter of their existence and the message was profound. We are all walking toward our final destination with no idea our place in line. We could be next in line, we could be further back but none of us are getting a pass.
Some of my classmates are no longer with us.
Some died of natural causes; some took their own lives.
All were taken too soon.
So, what’s with the deep reflection, you ask? Big changes create ripples in your awareness. We are cursed as human beings to cry for what is lost, only after having lost the thing we miss the most.
The song by metal hair band, Cinderella, resonates the most these days, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone” because it’s the truth.
As much as I hated it when I was a teenager, I miss the structure of going class to class, seeing the same people every day (even if I didn’t like them) and I definitely miss the friendships I took for granted.
The reality that I didn’t understand then, was that on the day I graduated high school, some of those classmates, I would never see again.
Some of those classmates I’d gone to school with since kindergarten.
And then, suddenly, they were gone.
We were all pulled by life in different directions, our paths destined to never cross again.
I tried to explain to my daughter that someday she would miss the familiarity of seeing the same people every day. She would miss laughing with classmates, stressing over shared exams, complaining about the same teachers.
Of course, she thinks I’m nuts.
I remember that arrogance, too.
There’s a cutting edge to wisdom that no one talks about.
I miss the simplicity of friendships based on childhood experiences. When you’re a kid, a new friendship can blossom out of a shared like or dislike of bananas. Adult friendships are far more complicated.
I’m blessed in that I have the same best friends from my childhood but the sad reality is that I never get to see them. We’ve been trying to find a day to get together for the past five years but our schedules never seem to align. Life demands too much of our time to carve out an afternoon with each other.
We keep making vague but heartfelt promises to get together at some point but it never happens.
I finally understand the saying, “Life is short.” The knowledge fills me with a poignant ache as we continue to shuffle our way down the line, unknowing our place, only knowing sooner than we are ready, our time will come.
I guess, what we do with the time we have, is what matters most.
Make it count.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.