I write this blog about my x*%$@th reunion last weekend, just as a whole new generation is about to make the transition from high school to university, in this case, the University of Utah.
Chances are, more of you are bearing wounds of ‘slings and arrows’ from your time in high school than carrying a backpack full of sunny memories that will keep you warm and cheery all the way to the nursing home.
I’m here to save you some time. Don’t take any “wounds” you received—real or imagined—personally. Don’t lug those feelings of rejection, spite, loneliness, inferiority, etc etc (it’s a long list) with you into the future. And for the minority who truly felt loved, cared for, appreciated and involved (a much shorter list): Don’t hog the spotlight, go spread it around.
That’s because despite the images, myths and the successful movie musicals, high school is simply a building. But it is a structure where 15 to 18 years olds—already biologically confused, hormonal, anxious, rebellious, peppy and gawky—get thrown together in large numbers under the guise of learning higher math and handing down civilization’s traditions. In the ensuing chaos, it is not a surprise that damaging hierarchies quickly sort people out, with or without adult supervision. In truth, it’s something of a miracle that kids live through the experience. Tragically some don’t. Sadly, many more bear psychological scars that affect how they grow into adults.
I’ve just come from the future, and for your benefit and everlasting gratitude, I will tell you how one version of this movie ends.
The handsome football captain and all-around hero—is so fat he waddles. The peppy cheerleader, smiling everywhere in the yearbook—is still impossibly wealthy, but looks inexorably sad. The lovely, popular girl who wed early and joyfully and then had ten children—is divorced. The nerd—is creative, expansive and genuinely successful. The talented jock who callously took advantage of your naïve affection—is kind and honestly apologetic.
The remaining legions—the quiet, average, pretty much anonymous kids—lived lives. They schooled, travelled, wed, built careers, businesses, families, communities. Some also got fat, wealthy, sad, divorced. A few failed, but most succeeded, in one fashion or another.
In short, life happened to all of us, whether or not we were “popular” in that eyeblink of adolescence.
Except for the 44 whose chances ended. The list of those who succumbed–to lung cancer, melanoma, infections, accidents, got caught in a convenience store robbery gone awry, jogged off the trail, or committed suicide–started in 1972 and is just getting longer.
So my advice to you, incoming freshmen of the University of Utah, is not original, but it is sound:
“Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the ones who treat you right. Love the ones who don’t just because you can. If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands. If it changes your life, let it. Believe everything happens for a reason. Kiss slowly. Forgive quickly.”
Welcome to your new home. Let this be your first second chance. Step up to the plate and swing for the fences. Life is rich and full, if only you let it be.