ten years

It’s been exactly 10 years since we graduated high school.

10 years since the only thing we knew to look forward to was the future.

9 1/2 years since we learned that going off to college isn’t always as carefree, easy, and breezy as it might have seemed in the movies.

You see, right there, up above, is my “group” from high school. Of the five other girls standing in this picture, only two of them I actually talk to anymore. Time, distance, interests….all of that stuff ended up driving most of us apart. It wasn’t an intentional break, but it was guaranteed to happen, and it’s funny to think of how blissfully unaware of that we were when this picture was taken. We didn’t stop to think about how you can’t stay in high school forever.

Looking back at this photo, I never would have believed that my first year of college would be the most painful year of my life. I mean, I’d been so sure that going to a school 7 hours away from home in my dream city pursuing my dream occupation couldn’t be anything but magical. And it was….once I got past the first 6 months or so. I was depressed, I thought about moving back home and trying something safer so many times.

But I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I stuck it through. Because I ended up meeting the girls you see in the picture above. And while one just moved to LA and the other one I don’t speak to anymore, I’m grateful for the times we had together and the friendship we developed that convinced me to stay, to persevere, and to make college what I hoped it would be. My wild rides weren’t alcohol-fueled parties or wild, late nights downtown – they were concerts and backstage passes and red carpet work. But that was how it was meant to be. That was all I really wanted out of college, anyways.

So as we begin to rally for our 10 Year High School Reunion in a couple weeks, and the conversations ensue about whether or not it feels “right” to go, I realize that I feel no shame or embarrassment at facing my former classmates. While I left Westerville North High School wide-eyed and convinced I’d be writing songs with Keith Urban by this point, I know I’ve ended up exactly where I’m meant to be – maybe even closer to the heart of what was meant for me that I didn’t even know was possible.

I’ve got a lot to show for this time I’ve spent. I’ve got a lot to be proud of. And I’ve got a long way to go, too, but that doesn’t really matter now, does it? I may have had a lot of highfalutin dreams back in high school, and even college, but I had those dreams for a reason. They still got me here, didn’t they?

So yeah, I may not have won the love of my high school crush. I may not have found my one true love in college. I may not have gotten some glamorous, high-paying corporate job fresh out of school. And I still don’t have some glamorous, high-paying corporate job to show off to my hometown. But I’ve got something better than all that. I get my hands dirty, my back burnt, and my insides stirred with inspiration on a daily basis. I’ve made new friends and managed to keep up with the old ones who truly mattered in the grand scheme of things. Time and distance may have served some nasty trials. But they’ve forced me to grow. They’ve forced me to sit here and evaluate how far we’ve all come since accepting those diplomas 10 years ago today.

And yet, still, there is no part of me that yearns for the “good old days” of high school. Or college. I can look back on them fondly, appreciating where they brought me and standing proud as the woman I am today. And sure, it’s easy to look back and see how much skinnier I actually was or how great my hair looked. But I can also see how far I’ve come and how parts of that girl still live in me today, for better or for worse. I can reminisce how little details contributed to the greater picture in ways I never imagined. And I can feel grateful for getting through it all in one piece and finding some semblance of the me I’m still growing into day by day.