After not being able to attend my 10-year high school reunion this past weekend, I’ve been hit with the nostalgia bug. Even with my attic at near-volcanic temperatures, I’ve been persistently flipping through yearbooks, digging into boxes of pictures, and revisiting friendships through notes and mementos.
I know several people that would never wish to relive their high school years. But I look back fondly on those memories, especially when I consider the person I’ve become since then. The journey through my teenage years into adulthood had your typical disappointments, mistakes, and missteps. However, I am thankful that I’ve learned a few things along the way too. Here are five of the most influential lessons that have molded me to who I am today.
1. Maintaining friendships takes effort
Reunions make you realize just how many people you have lost touch with. People that I spent 7 years growing, laughing, and making memories with are now people I know nothing about. It’s way too easy to just keep moving on with your life and fall out of contact with the ones who used to mean so much to you, especially when they are spread out all across the country. But I hope to be able to reconnect over the next 10 years with some of those individuals and be intentional in rekindling those relationships. It takes extra effort, but the ones who deserve that effort tend to make it easy, picking up right where you left off.
2. Don’t take yourself TOO seriously
When I was in high school, I was basically obsessed with maintaining a 4.0. Like, OBSESSED. I can remember long nights studying and lots of stress when quarter grades would come in with an A-. And although it pushed me to really work hard for the grades I wanted, it did not prepare me for the reality of college. One Astronomy test deep and I was in hysterics. (Who could have known Astronomy would be so stinkin’ difficult?!) But since then, I’ve come to acquire a healthier perspective and a maturity that allows me to not get caught up on small details. After all, does anybody actually care about what grades you made in high school? I’ll go ahead and answer that one: uhhhhh-NO.
3. Admit your flaws
Growing up, I always wanted to come across as perfect as possible. I would keep my flaws to myself and attempt to only let others in enough to see the pretty, put-together parts of my life. In fact, I kept a secret from everyone at school, with the exception of three close friends, when I had a major surgery my sophomore year involving the clipping of nerves on my spinal cord. I had suffered with severe hyperhydrosis my whole life and was too embarrassed to let anyone know. So even after surgery, I preferred to pretend that it never happened. Nowadays, I tell EVERYONE who will listen about my sweaty hands and the corrective surgery that I had to undergo at 16. It has become part of my story that is fun to share with others because it makes me relatable. I used to concern myself daily with who liked me and I’d even make myself sick wondering what others might be thinking about me. But I’ve had to learn to let that worry go, accept that I’m not perfect, and decide that outside opinions don’t define who I am.
4. Get outside your comfort zone
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since high school that has completely altered my life, it would be the importance of getting out of my comfort zone. For those who don’t know me well, it’s not a natural thing for me to do. This concept really began my Senior year when I decided to commit to Kansas State University — a school where I knew not one soul. That’s right, not a single person from my high school was attending, or had (to my knowledge), ever attended there. Yet still, I took the leap of faith and I am forever changed because of it. I met some of the best people I will forever call friends, was exposed to every creative outlet and design facet that shaped my career path, and brought on a study abroad trip where (as you probably know) I met my husband.
On that study abroad trip, I came to another point where I felt led to put myself out there in a not-totally-comfortable situation. A group of Texas A&M students were organizing a weekend trip to Florence and I really wanted to go experience more of the city and spend time outside the study center. So, I talked my friend Bo into joining them with me. Everything was right with the world until Bo decided against going last minute and I was stuck with 12 strangers, traveling in a foreign country. I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider backing out. But instead I went with that group and found myself hanging out with a tall, dark and handsome guy from Texas. The rest is literally history.
5. Life doesn’t turn out exactly the way you plan
Upon graduation, if you asked me where I’d be in 10 years, I’d have given a list of items to you. Married to my high school sweetheart, working at an architecture firm, and living in either San Francisco or Chicago among them. But life had other plans I could not have foreseen — plans that smacked me upside the head and said, “You’ll thank me later.” It was that time being in the unknown that helped me realize where my priorities were. And now I can’t imagine being anywhere except in central Oklahoma with my hubby and two dogs, working in several different capacities and taking the opportunity to visit family every chance we get. It’s a slower-paced life than I had anticipated, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything.