THE CLASS OF THEN AND NOW
By: Lauren Anderson
This past weekend was my high school reunion.
It was everything it ought to be. One part awkward, one part fun. One part was exciting, one part bittersweet. There were lots of baby and kid pictures being shown, with parents ranging from joyful to exhausted, sometimes in the same breath.
There was a little bragging and a little excusing from moment to moment… but thankfully not that much. There were pockets of sadness shared as we remembered people we had lost. And then I would turn around to celebrate some others about to bring new life into the world.
It was fun to see how much we’ve changed, and how we haven’t changed at all.
And of course, there was plenty of alcohol, and just the riiiiight amount of drama.
I lucked out. High school for me was never the painful experience I hear so many of my friend’s describe. In fact, looking back I know I had a blast in high school. Sure, I had my share of teenage heartache and angst. But in hindsight? It was nothing compared to the full-scale technicolor blows of adulthood.
Still, I wouldn’t want to go back.
The things I know now compared to then? Immeasurable. And I wasn’t even that dumb of a kid. But you get what I mean I hope. The great cosmic joke of it all is that when I was in high school I was young and lithe and energetic. And more gorgeous than I deserved to be.
But I thought I was a hideous MONSTER. I thought I was entirely unloveable and the worst.
Because that is the judgement of youth. And if I wasn’t EXACTLY this way or that, I wasn’t good enough. Youth thinks in black in white. Age teaches you that everything is gray. Everything is a shade of triumph and a dash of loss. There is no either/or.
Now that I’m older, each lesson has stolen some beauty and some energy and replaced it with wisdom. A price I willingly pay because I love myself so much more than I used to. I am more forgiving and stronger than ever before, and in a way, that makes me more beautiful than ever. But I can’t help to laugh at what this wisdom could do with my 18 year old body. With no aches or pains or wrinkles or stretch marks. That combination could conquer the world! But perhaps that would make one too powerful?
And that thought is the punchline to the great cosmic joke. When my brain and experience finally taught me enough to be a better human, my body began to betray me. I like to think because all those memories and life lessons are hard to carry, so my body can’t help but start to wear down…
I’m sure I don’t know. But it’s funny to think about. Not in like a “laugh out loud” kinda way. But more like, “I better laugh at this otherwise I’ll shrivel up and turn to dust” kinda way.
But before I get too foolishly sentimental for anyone to bare, let’s get back to the gym!
Five years ago, I skipped my reunion. I was about 10 pounds away from my heaviest weight. I was feeling stuck and strangely adrift in all areas of my life, for the first time. I didn’t know it back then, but I was lost.
I just couldn’t go and face anyone. I didn’t know how to be OK with what I was enough to convince other people of my OK-ness, ya know?
But the great joke in this instance is I wouldn’t have had to convince anyone of anything. Because everyone is too busy with their own shit to care about yours for too long.
Now I’m convinced. Everyone feels like I have from time to time. And everyone is the nucleus of their own story. And much too involved in that plot to care about whether or not I was on the right track in my career, or that I was fatter than I used to be.
The fact of the matter is, most people would’ve given me a hug and said, “It’s good to see you.” And that would’ve been that. And if they noticed a bigger body, or new sadness in my eyes… they would’ve kept it to themselves. Youth may have called it out, but age (at it’s best) recognizes and accepts.
Because their own wisdom would’ve taught them that we’re more alike than different.
This is a lesson I experience EVERY SINGLE TIME I go to the gym.
There is always that little fear in the back of my brain that thinks I have to convince everyone of my OK-ness. That I belong at the gym, and that I can do this stuff.
And then I get there and I see all these bodies, and levels of experience just trying to do their best, and I’m reminded–I don’t have to convince anyone of anything. Because we are more alike than we are different. And even though there is tremendous camaraderie at the gym, we are the center of our own story. And the only person I really have to convince is myself.
Perhaps it was serendipity, but I got a real dose of this last week at Endurance. Three coaches and a lot of other hardcore Solcanauts were in class. If I were to observe and describe them to others, I would say they all seem like they’re in peak physical condition.
Of course if you asked them, I’m sure they would tell you otherwise.
I could get intimidated, and feel like I didn’t belong. And frankly, the Lauren that started out at Solcana over a year ago, probably would’ve felt VERY insecure. Maybe I wouldn’t have even shown up. Just like that reunion 5 years ago. Because that is the folly of youth. That’s the black and white logic of the young and new.
But last week, my wisdom taught me that I belong here. And even though my body and my expertise and my experience are very different from the coaches and other athletes, wisdom has taught me that we are more alike than we are different.
So when the buzzer sounded to begin the 45 minute AMRAP (stands for: as many rounds as possible!) I looked at everyone, and we acknowledged each other and gave a subtle nod. As if to say, “I’ll catch you on the other side.” Recognizing that even though we share this experience, we are also on our own. And even though I was still the novice in that group, I was the one to remind everyone to do their mobility stretch at the end.
* * *
And honestly, that’s how I felt this weekend at my reunion. My body will always be a work-in-progress. I will always question my career choices and my life path. Pleasure will always mingle with pain. We are always moving forward, but once every 5 years or so, it feels really good to look back.
Each new experience makes me young again. Each experience re-visited makes me more wise. And even though age may try and take away from my body, every trip to the gym I make gives me something back.
It seems the grayer life gets the more glorious it becomes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.