Seems like all my friends from school are turning 50 this year. I don't know how they got so old!
I first met some of them in Shakamak High School's Kindergarten class. My first memory was Jeff Eccles, who wasn't having a good drop-off experience. His mother pointed across the toddler-sized table and suggested he be brave like me.
I wasn't being brave. I think I was probably too terrified to speak. The youngest of seven country kids, my mother had seen no need to indoctrinate me into relationships with foreign children. And as I'd already survived five years of my brothers, I'm sure it didn't occur to her to stick around and make sure I was OK in this new pool of fish.
Let's be honest: it was her one chance of freedom in, what, 10 years of having kids at home. I'd have gotten the hell out of Dodge too.
So I survived that day and all the others that followed. Most of the kids I met that day were still with me when I sat in a hot gym to graduate from high school. And now, they're all turning 50.
How did they get so old?! I remember that day in kindergarten as clearly as the (in retrospect) ugly white shoes I wore to graduation. Now I see their grandchildren on FaceBook. That's right. Grandchildren.
Alison's only 13. That makes me at least a decade younger than my classmates, right? Probably more.
To celebrate their status as the last of the Baby Boomers, I thought I'd offer up 5 Things You Should Have Learned by Your 50th Year. I had the idea I could impart 50 bits, but that's an awful lot and as I'm not yet 50, I'm not really qualified:
1. It's not all about you. Never was, really, but by now you should accept it.
Alison had a "teens only" gathering after her acting camp last week. Wrapped up in having unchaperoned fun downtown, she was MIA from our original plans and had forgotten her phone so it was hard to reach her. I ended up tracking her down at the mall because I had another commitment that she had to attend as well. My friend Jodie and I were together when I spied her. She wasn't ready to go. She went without a fuss but explained down two escalators, in great detail how I was a joy killer. We got to the parking level before I asked her if she was going to say hello to Jodie. "Jodie's here?" she exclaimed and immediately gave her a hug.
Here's the thing. Yes, Ali can be self-absorbed. But she's 13. (And at her own volition before we reached our destination, she apologized for "being a brat.") By the time you're 50 -- decades earlier for you high acheivers -- you should know that it's not all about you. And act accordingly.
2. It's not about the size of your ass or your bank account it's about the condition of your heart.
Some great woman posted the other day about how she knows she's not a single digit size any more but dammit, she's going to play in the pool/ocean/lake with her kids anyway. I love that. Sure I worry about my gut and my sausage thighs. But I'm the one who frets. And if there are people who point out my imperfections, well that's on them. They're assholes.
It's true that I embarked on a weight loss/fitness journey because I was concerned about my appearance. But along the way, I learned that it's not appearance that's important. I'm more fit, more healthy now that I ever have been. And that means I should be able to enjoy those golden years (so far down the road) so much more than if I wasn't. And hopefully I'll be around and in shape to play with a grandchild or two when that joy comes my way.
I complain a lot about the Pentecostal upbringing I endured, but I'm sure it's the foundation of my belief that if you are in a position to help someone, you should. My family was far from rich and there were times that were harder than others. My mother was so ashamed during those harder times. But we got through it, in part, because of (gasp!) governmental assistance.
We were so poor I qualified for Pell grants. Had it not been for those grants, I would not likely have gone to college. I'd be living in a trailer somewhere with 12 cats and an equal number of addictions.
I'm grateful. And I know there are tons of other people in similar conditions.
Giving someone a hand doesn't even always involve money.
Donna Gorby (Miss Gorby to Shakamak grads) saved me from that trailer. She was my high school English/Journalism teacher and she recommended me when the Terre Haute Tribune Star was looking for stringer. Getting and keeping the job was up to me, sure. But without her, I wouldn't have had the opportunity.
If you can help with money, and you want to, go ahead. You could also mow the neighbor's yard if you're already out and have time. Clear the driveway of the folks down the road when you're out with your plow and they don't have one. Smile at someone who's having a bad day. Babysit for the couple who can't afford a sitter. Coach kids, like my friend Jeff Eccles, who survived kindergarten quite well after that first day.
Write a blog post about swimming with your kids regardless of the size of your swimsuit. Recommend someone for a job. Hell, GIVE someone a job if you can. Even if you're the only one who sees promise in that person.
Whatever you do to help someone, just give it and let it go. Don't expect your hand to be kissed or sky writers to tell the world how great you are. You know. Revel in your fabulosity if you want, but keep it to yourself. Make a habit of it and you'll find yourself not needing that revelry eventually. It really is an investment in self-worth. If you have to look at it that way, go ahead.
3. Leave Judgment Day to whatever judge you worship.
Lord knows I'm judgmental by nature. If I was queen of the world, man, people would straigten up and fly right. Right. :) I try, routinely fail, but really try hard to not impose my way of thinking/doing things on people. Unless it's really something stupid. Seriously, though, whether you believe in a higher power or not, we should all be able to agree that reasonable people can disagree and still maintain good relationships.
Here's a shocker: I'm not perfect. There's a ton of stuff to judge me for if you're of a mind to. I hope you're not. And I hope I'll give you the same courtesy. I wouldn't have in my teens or twentys. Maybe even my thirties. I guess getting older DOES bring some positivity afterall....
Remember back when you giggled? When you busted a gut over something so stupid no one else could understand it? Do that again. As often as you can.
A hundred years ago, Debbie Ellis and I were getting ready to go to a basketball game and one of us (probably her) said, "I got gave a pig." Someone (probably me) poked a little grammatical fun at it and we were off to the races. I don't remember where the game was, only that her mother drove us, shaking her head at us and laughing herself because we couldn't stop laughing about it. Stupid, huh? I still smile when I think about it.
5. Love something.
It's ok to love your pets. Just don't love your pets, if you know what I mean. When I was a kid, I didn't dream of a wedding or being a mother. I never thought it would happen and it was better not wasting time on it. I'm grateful for my family and my life. Every single day.
I'm not saying you have to give birth or be married to understand love. There are tons of ways to love something or some one or several somethings and someones. Being a good friend is loving someone.
It's amazing to me how much I love that little red head who lives with us. I struggle to keep from hovering over her all the time to be sure she's happy; that people treat her well; and that her life is as good as it can be. I know I have to let her struggle through these middle school years when it's so hard to find your place. I know there are harder struggles coming.
But having her has widened my scope on life. It truly isn't all about me. It's not all about her, either. It's about all of us.
I think, at this stage of my life, it's this "Love something" thing that might be the key. Maybe it was seeing "Love Actually" the other day for the 124th time. Maybe I'm just sentimental this morning. Maybe I'm learning from my older, wiser classmates.
I'm not even drinking, but I'm pretty sure that if you're reading this, I love you.
So there you have it: 5 things you should know by now. Come to think of it, you probably don't have to wait til you're 50 to learn them.