It is my 15-year high school reunion tonight. FIFTEEN. That’s a long time. I’m old. I’m old as fuck. OYE.
I am no longer friends with any of the girls I went to school with. This is a reasonable outcome from my experience in high school: I didn’t have any crazy close friends, even though I enjoyed several good relationships, nor was I made to be miserable by any of my schoolmates. Other than a rough start for the first 2 years (+/- = middleschool for all you Americans), high school was painless experience for me. Maybe because I had too much going on at home, with my perma crippled state and my volcanic teenage relationship with my mother; I kept my schoolmates at friendly arm’s length (even then, I was ambivalent about vulnerability!) and viewed school as a drama free space. All my friendships faded within 5 years of graduation. Still, I’m looking forward to catching up with the girls (I went to an all-girl school run by nuns). From what I can see, many/most of them are married with children. Social media lies, of course, but the ones I follow seem happy.
When I graduated high school, I assumed that by 30, I’d be married, probably with kids, a house in the ‘burbs, and some job in science. Turns out I striked out on all 3 counts. I don’t have much to show for my years, other than a solid career that is by no means stellar. I remember a time when such thoughts would have filled me with shame, but instead, today, as I reflect on my life these past 15 years, I feel pride.
- I thought I’d be a scientist: I failed out of engineering. I took time off, moved out from my parents, and worked my way up from a minimum wage job to that of executive assistant. I put myself through school, 3 years later, in accounting. During my B. Comm, I met the friends that bring joy to my life to this day, got sent to Hong Kong for 10 days, and finally accepted I am smart.
- I thought I’d marry my uni sweetheart: I didn’t. The subsequent collapse of my identity derailed my life for several years.
- I discovered kickboxing. I blew out my knee, ending my love affair with that sport. But that brought me to boxing, which has changed my life. To think there used to be a time of my life without Coach?! Incredible.
- My mother died in her sleep.
- I quit the job I loved more than my life, two years ago, due to my inability to manage my depressions (3 major episodes in 5 years, while still delivering a satisfactory performance level). I lasted 13 months at my next job; I wasn’t happy there, but it gave me the space to aggressively pursue my treatment with my therapist. I found my voice in my blog. I sang in public several times. I started taking chances. A year ago, almost to the day, on Halloween, I started my current job, my dream job.
And that brings me to last year’s Halloween. During that weekend, I met Strawberry who, in the subsequent months, played a small but pivotal role in my comfort with my identity as a writer (we still communicate regularly, and keep the acquaintance alive). I went to a boxing party where I spoke to Beaut for the first time. I went to another party where I made out with a guy, ending my 17-month sexual fast. Looking back on that weekend, it marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. When I think of all that has happened since then… I am amazed. Beaut happened: for all the emotional roller-coaster, I don’t regret anything. His worldview challenged mine; it is thanks to him that I am pursing my writing with more conviction; he pushed me to take up dancing, which brings me so much joy. I travelled to Beirut, for my best friend’s wedding. I travelled to France for work and pleasure. I stopped therapy, after 20 months; and despite some tricky moments, and resurgence of some symptoms, I have been managing my mental health all by myself, with success. Lately, I’ve put my career back in high-gear; its been a thrill to realize Smart Vanilla is back. My friends are amazing, constantly reminding me that I am dearly loved.
For the first time, I can say that I live life to the fullest. I’ve had good and bad moments. I have made mistakes. But, after 12 months of taking risks, some of which paid off, and some didn’t, I can look back at what I’ve done and be proud that I tried. I might not have anything concrete to show for the past 15 years, other than the battlescars of life, but these scars remind me of the moments where my spirit almost broke… but didn’t. I’m still here and I am happy. I have my spirit and my smile.
Who’d have thought that a high school reunion and Halloween weekend would trigger such strong emotions of gratitude and contentment?!