This morning as I sit having a late breakfast and sipping on strong coffee, the hilarious conversations from last night are still swirling in my head. Last night was my primary school class reunion.
Podi is a nickname I got in primary school. It is formed out of my two names. The name followed me to high school too and spread on to College. However when I started working the nickname calling stopped. It was time for another phase of my life. Only those who knew me from before that time still call me Podi. Sometimes I wonder if some know my real name.
The get together had been planned months ago. The excitement of meeting each other grew, declined and grew again as the days drew closer. The idea of meeting each other after all these years was thrilling and daunting at the same time. Thrilling because we have fond memories of each other, we shared the same experiences that will glue us together for a life time. And after 30+ years we are still here —alive. There is much to celebrate there. Daunting because one secretly wonders if they measured up to all the expectations our teachers and parents had for us. The prospects of seeing ones classmates from back then will without a doubt bring with it an unsettling feeling of wonder — of whether you made it or not.
By the time one is 13 years old your life expectations are clearly drawn out. It starts with an expectation to passing your exams with top marks so that get you into an excellent high school, from there into a prominent university to study for a prestigious profession like Law, Medicine, Finance, Engineering etcetera.”Your life is ahead of you,” you were told. “Reach for the skies! Aim High!”
Pause — having read up to there is your heart pounding with foreboding? Mine is.
Our parents and teacher meant well. They wanted us to be the best people possible and they pushed us to go for it. However it was not to be for all. Some barley passed their exams and ended up studying at a local, around the corner school doing a course they can’t remember or care to mention. Academic achievement is first area that generates self doubt and feelings of failure. It seems to speak to how much we should be valued. The second area is work, home and family. How many accolades and awards do you have? Which country club do you belong to? Where do you live? Do you have a pool and personal gym? Are you married? How many children do you have? Which schools do your children go to? Are they well behaved and on the honour roll? Where do you holiday? Have you climbed Mt Kilimanjaro?
Pause. Reader is your heart pounding and head hurting with apprehension? Mine is.
Even if you did well in the first part this second one is bound to bring you down. The chances that you missed a step or three here is sure-fire. The third area is personal appearance and self worth. The critic in your head is asking, “Am I fat?” It answers back. “Yes, especially around the stomach and hip area. You must go on a diet and hit the gym. Am I still beautiful and youthful? No, your hair is thinning at the top, a few gray hairs are showing, your eyes are dull and wrinkled, you have deep frown lines on your forehead, and you can no longer party all night. Am I good enough? No, you don’t go to church as often and you missed this year’s charity funds drive.”
Pause. Reader, are you feeling the pressure building? Is a breakdown imminent? Have we been set up? At this point I am in distress and feel like reaching for pain killers.
Pause again. I don’t reach for them. Instead I take three deep breathes, a tall glass of warm water with a slice of lemon and reflect.
I am not 13 years old anymore and I should not be! I am a mature adult who tried to follow what was expected. I succeeded in some and failed in others. There is knowledge and understanding in my years. Here are a few quotes that support what I know for sure.
- If perfection eludes us, it doesn’t matter, what we have within the moment is enough ~ Call The Midwife
- Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny. ~ S. Lewis
- As a young adult one feels a certainty to life that gives a false sense of confidence, as one matures they realize how much uncertainty is a part of life & therefore gaining true confidence. ~ Pauline Ndirangu
- If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it. ~John Irving
- Instead of resisting to changes, surrender. Let life be with you, not against you. If you think “My life will be upside down” don’t worry. How do you know down is not better than upside? ~ Shams Tabrizi
- If there is no enemy within, no enemy outside can hurt you – African Proverb
- To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a third measure of success that goes beyond money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. ~ Arianna Huffington
- Don’t underestimate yourself. You are capable of more than you can ever imagine. ~ Les Brown
- You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream. ~ C.S. Lewis
- The true measure of a man is not his intelligence or how high he rises in the establishment. No, the true measure of a man is this: how quickly can he respond to the needs of others and how much of himself he can give. ~ Philip K. Dick
When I got to the reunion venue I peeped into the room were meeting. A man I recognized immediately as Will was telling stories while the others were listening and laughing. The mood was festive and cheerful; polite music playing, lots of food and drink. I observed them some more and I started to feel the upbeat energy of the moment. Degrees, accolades, status, successes, failures, aging, married or not didn’t seem to matter. Sentimental childhood memories were our common bond. Our individual stories made us unique and worth celebrating. I stepped in and shouted,
“Hiiiii!” everyone shouted back “Hiiiiii! Hi Podi!” I walked inside and fit right in.