Summer is dawning and I’m reminded where I was 20 years ago.
On top of the world.
High school was behind me and I had two months of utter freedom before packing my bags and starting life at the Scottish Rite Dormitory at the University of Texas. I was filled with hope and excitement for all that lay ahead. The days were long and we were spontaneous. Sure, I worked. I’ve always worked since the day I turned 16 but that just added to the freedom. I was making $7.00 dollars an hour toward my illicit booze purchases.
I chain smoked Marlboro Lights and had a constant darker tan on my left arm from hanging it out the window of my car. I drank Zima. I only wore Harold’s clothes. There was nothing holding me back from taking over the world. I knew every word to Garth Brook’s “Calling Baton Rouge” but the meaning behind his “Much Too Young to Feel this Damn Old” was lost on me.
I drove a 1987 Pontiac Grand Am. She was lovingly referred to by all as “The Silver Bullet” or mostly just “The Bullet” I’d been presented to society from National Charity League, walked the stage at Moody Coliseum and turned eighteen. I was young and unafraid.
I look back on that summer now with longing. Not for the Zima, the Harold’s clothes or the Marlboro Lights but for the freedom from fear. I hadn’t yet failed at much… except the Science Fair and Physics class. I couldn’t fathom that I’d ever fail.
Since then life has been a series of ups and downs, joys and disappointments, and loves and losses. That summer I never imagined the number of times I’d be heart-broken or lonely. But I also never imagined how the friendships I had forged in the hallowed halls of Plano Senior High School would still exist today. That summer I never dreamed of the nights I would spend alone in an apartment eating ice cream from the carton and watching depressing movies. But I also never imagined the places I would go and see and experience all over the world.
That summer I never imagined how hard it would be to find my place in the working world. But I also never imagined how my career journey would lead me to so many amazing people. That summer I never imagined that I would be almost forty and childless. But I also never knew how much that would make Zack and Sara mean to me. For, in my family, the aunt is revered and celebrated with the same zeal as a mother. My own mother was like a child to her Aunt Gladys and I know of no human with so pure a heart as my Aunt G. My sister and I both bear an Aunt’s name… my father’s sister is Sharon Elizabeth. And as Big Sara said best “we both know the role an aunt can play in a child’s life. You are Zack and Sara’s Aunt Gladys. No higher calling in my opinion.”
That summer I never dreamed how many frogs I would have to kiss to find my prince. But I didn’t know then how each frog would challenge me, grow me, change me and make me fiercely independent.
The summer of 1995 is truly the last time I remember not being afraid. I couldn’t fathom failure or disappointment. And though I long for that freedom I don’t think I would trade it for the lessons I’ve learned over the past twenty years. My friendships are real, true and strong. My love is fierce. I’ve done things I thought were impossible. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve felt the pleasure of success. I’ve learned that sometimes you get disappointed but you always get over it.
If I could go back and tell that girl anything… that girl in the summer of 95… I’d tell her to slow down – to take it all in. I’d tell her to stop rushing things because no matter how hard you try to speed up the process of growing up… you always end up where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. That’s the cosmic void at work.
Instead, I’m going to tell the girl in the summer of 2015 to slow down and enjoy the ride a little bit more. I’m going to tell her to stop being so scared of the future or failure. I’m going to make her remember the girl from 1995 with the windows rolled down, cigarette in hand that was just looking for a field party. I will remind her to let go a little bit… to loosen her grip… and maybe, just maybe… she’ll find a field party.