Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

What would the child you once were think of the adult you have become?

A facebook friend of mine had this status message this am “Holy crap, I'm an award winning writer. There's news my 15 year old self wouldn't have believed if I went back in time to tell him.

He and I went to highschool together – and haven’t seen each other since. I remember his fifteen year old self. We were in the same social group but not close friends. So friends of the “hang out together and say hi” variety but not the “exchange close confidences bff” variety. You remember highschool; you know what that’s like. So we disconnected at graduation as so many do, and were it not for facebook that would’ve been the end of it. But given this latest toy, I’ve been following his (and many other of my highschool acquaintances) posts for the last several years. Today’s set me thinking. Consider yourself forewarned.

Short version: somewhere along the way I, and all my friends, grew up.

Long version? Ummm ok :)

So when we were 15 it seemed that everybody knew what they wanted to do but me. One of my best friends wanted to be a vet and to have a family. Another wanted to be a teacher. One a politician. Another an engineer. I? I had absolutely no idea. I wanted to go to university. I knew that much. But what I was going to study was a bit of a mystery. I wanted English, but a practical side of me figured that wouldn’t get me a job at the end. So then I figured computers – why not? I’d breezed through programming in high school and both my parents were programmers. Made sense.

So away I went to university and since I chose to go to the other side of the country, pretty much lost touch with most of my high school friends. And by the time I graduated all I knew was that I adamantly did *not* want any job involving programming. Hmmmm. Tricky. Cause it turns out I was right about finding a job with only an undergrad in English *g*

Now about half way through undergrad I started to realize that I really wanted to teach riding. For real. Not just as a part-time, better than flipping burgers job, but as a full time venture. And more than just teach (cause when have I *ever* done things the easy way?) I wanted my own farm. And I never said it out loud. It was a guilty secret really. Because I had a small mountain of student loans, was part way through two degrees, and “supposed” to be a professional. Professional what? Well that was open to interpretation, but definitely something involving an office and a large salary. And there was absolutely no way I could come up with the money to start a farm even if I wanted to. So it was shelved with my teddy bears as a child’s dream not outgrown. I know I wasn’t alone in this, because I had a close friend at the time who I know all she *really* wanted was to have a family. Get married and have 2.5 children. But for an intelligent, twenty-something woman in today’s society, this is not seen as a fashionable or even acceptable life decision. So she shelved that and continued her way through a science degree.

Graduating and finding myself totally unready for real life as an adult, I retreated back to academia (which I *loved* and would still be in if I hadn’t run out of money – I’m so going to be the “old guy” in class when I retire :) I went and got my Masters. Ok, now *slightly* more equipped for a “real” job. Not much, but slightly. And out to the work force I went.

About now Facebook started appearing. I had no interest in it; unusual for me, but sobeit. I actively ignored it for a while. Until I got a message “got your email address from your brother, would love to connect on Facebook with you.” It was from the girl who had been my best friend. When I was 5. So I gave in and signed up – more curious than anything. And soon enough had reconnected with most of those friends... The mom/vet was in the final stretch of vet school. The teacher and engineer were both working in the fields they had set out to. The politician ended up being a lawyer (close enough :). And I? I still had no idea what I wanted to do. That was harsh.

But then I read around a bit and I realized that they were the minority. It just happened that most of my close friends, being of similar personalities to me, were pretty determined to get what they wanted. But most of rest of the people I’d grown up with were doing nothing even slightly related to what they’d intended at 15. Or 20. Or 25. And while everybody was doing *something*, many were like me – paying the bills but reasonably certain there was a better way if only they could find it.

And then the recession hit. And looking back I’ve realized how many people used it exactly as I did – to figure out what we really *should* be doing. My entire department but me got laid off and I got downsized to part-time. Hmmmm problem. I was bored out of my mind at that job, but it paid the bills so leaving would be scary. So I negotiated a bit – I’d stay on part-time, but only if I could work unusual hours long distance. This being agreed to, I got myself hired on as a working student in the states (hence the start of the blog :). Now you have to understand... That was something I’d always wanted to do. I’d always been jealous of my friends who had done it, and somewhat regretted not doing it. And figured, quite honestly, that I’d missed out on that opportunity. But finding myself suddenly with a flexible job and no real responsibilities, well why not go?

So while I was there, mostly it was just a dream way to spend the winter, but I vividly recall one day – rain just above the freezing point, unhappy temperamental horses, grumpy people, even the inanimate objects were being difficult – breaking or freezing or just not working correctly. One of those truly miserable days. And at some point I rolled my eyes at the other girl, shrugged, and said “oh well, still better than being at the office.” And at that point, I realized I’d made the decision.

Came home, got another “real” job (although one that I quite enjoyed!), picked up a business course or two, saved as much money as possible, freelanced to keep in the game, and eventually got my farm. And for the record – as that child’s dream was upacked, so was the teddy bear. Ike lives in the Bunkie; a reminder of good things past. But the really interesting thing, is how many of my old highschool peers were doing their variations of the same thing. And now it’s kinda fun to watch and see it all play out. Sure the original group are pretty settled in their lives. The engineer and the lawyer continue to work their way up their respective ranks, the vet is established in her practice, married, and on her way to her first child, the teacher continues to love her chosen profession. All good. But it’s the ones who didn’t know and were working “whatever” jobs who are fun to watch. Several have started their own businesses – almost all of which are focused on topics I remember them having as hobbies in highschool (riding anybody?). A couple have done complete career swaps, and while may be more junior now seem a lot more positive. And the scientist who really just wanted an old-school traditional family? Eventually married the boy she dated all through uni and currently has two children under the age of five. Wouldn’t be for me – but to look through her pictures, she’s the kind of stunning that only comes from radiating true happiness. As for the one who set this post in motion? I remember him at 15, totally into films and soundtracks. Yesterday the series he wrote, produced, and (I believe) directed won a mountain of awards. More than slightly impressive. (for the curious:

So what would the 15 year old me think if the today me told her where we’d be?
Well, admittedly, a part of her would be slightly disappointed. At 15 you’re going to make a fortune, save the world, and go down in the history books. I’m currently paying to work, haven’t saved anything other than my cat, and the only history book that has my name in it is the textbook that I wrote on the cover of. At 15, that is a pretty sad reality.

BUT, a much larger part of her would be very excited and somewhat disbelieving (why not – the 30 year old version still is too!). Uni, admittedly, would be lived pretty much exactly the same way (maybe with just a little less stress about calculus :) But when the “pay the bills” jobs hit, she’d be less disappointed and disheartened knowing what was coming next. And what Jason’s post this am highlighted so well for me, is that many of my peers are at this point in their lives right now where it’s fun again. Highschool I could’ve done without, but uni was a blast. Grad school even better. Which made crappy intro-level grown-up jobs suck just that much more (perhaps why there are so many tv shows about them :) But now it seems that most of us, together, are moving into the next “fun” chapter of life and it makes it really exciting to wake up every morning and see what happens next. And I’ll admit to being a little curious as to what the 60 year old me will think when she picks up the printed version of the blog and flips through rereading the words of the girl who thought maybe she’d grown up, but really was just starting out.


As someone currently in the university phase and looking for those crappy intro-level jobs, who is both excited for what could happen in the future and terrified of what might happen instead, but determined to get there anyway and bewildered that its not in the distant future but actually the next step... well I hope you know that you're not just an inspiration to your 15 year old self :)


awwww thanks Nicole!

And you know it'll be awesome! Whatever you decide :)


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