I’ve never been someone who can be perfectly content with the here and now. My whole life I’ve been wanting to be older, smarter, thinner, richer, and I always feel like (excuse the cliche) I’m never quite good enough, never quite there yet. Life has always been a competition and a race, both of which I’m never winning.
I think that Liz will agree with me when I say that we both have this same philosophy about life. Both of us are worriers, both of us are overachievers. Despite our inherent differences (she is getting her PhD in chemistry; I work in marketing and routinely use phrases like ‘the creative just doesn’t quite flow‘) we share the same basic ideas, hopes, and concerns about life. We were lucky enough to find each other and build an undying friendship on this, because hey, if you can’t build a friendship on neuroses, what can you build it on?
I’ve always associated my time growing up in New Jersey with even further magnified worry and failure… partly because of some of the family problems I’ve experienced and mostly, I’m sure, because of general teenage angst and awkwardness. But on Saturday afternoon, I found myself back at my old high school with Liz, a place we haven’t visited since the day we received our diplomas in June of 2000.
My brother is a senior at that high school, and he wanted me to come to his performance in the marching band. And before you start ragging on the marching band, you should know that I was on the drill team and Liz played the flute, and if you make fun of us I will cut you.
As Liz and I sat in the stands watching the rather pathetic football game and waiting for the half-time band performance, I suddenly felt incredibly proud of how far we’ve come. Sure, high school wasn’t the best time in our lives, but we did have some good times. Besides, I believe rather vehemently that if high school IS the best time of your life? Well, that’s just sad.
For once, instead of thinking ‘if only’ – if only I could get a promotion, lose 10 pounds, remodel the bathroom, and stop killing my houseplants – I was proud and happy of who I was in that moment. Actually, I was proud of both of us. Liz will be embarrassed to read this, but I really do think she’s just an incredible person. She worries so much over her research and time in lab without remembering how hard we struggled just to get through Biology in our freshman year of high school. She has completely shed her shyness and now gets up in front of a room of people to teach exercise classes. She knows who she is and she isn’t afraid to do what she loves. She is a rich in a way that has nothing to do with money, although I don’t doubt that she’ll have plenty of that someday, too (the better to buy fine wine with, I think).
And as for me, well, I think I turned out pretty well, too. I am pretty lucky to have found a career that I not only love, but that I am pretty damn good at. I live in a place that is not just my house, but also a warm and cozy home, and I live there with the guy that is the love of my life. I have hobbies like reading and dancing, and I know that life will only go up from here. But even if it doesn’t – even if it takes me a while to get that promotion, or if my bathroom stays hideous and my houseplants stay dead – I’ve still come a long way from that gawky girl in high school who was horribly self-conscious and felt bad about herself all the time.
It’s a nice feeling, being content with who you are. I hope that from now on when I get overwhelmed by all of life’s little failures, I can remember to take a moment to step back and marvel at the successes I’ve made for myself.