When We Were Young

There’s something about this time of year, even being 17-plus years removed from school, that still resonates with a certain degree of excitement. First days, new supplies in hand, a fashionable outfit all picked out the night before… just seeing snapshots of my friends’ children brings back a flood of memories from when I was a child, excitedly comparing schedules with my own classmates, mapping out what routes to take to class, planning who to eat lunch with - the important things.

How much has changed in the decades since. I know plenty of us would be thrilled to return to those simpler times, to when our biggest concern was having pool first period, or how to manage to squeeze in a stop at our lockers in between each class so as not to have to lug piles of books around the entire day. Even the workload seems trivial by comparison. We were competing for grades; but really, the entire structure was but a microcosm of the stresses of daily “adult” life.

It’s funny how we think we have it all figured out when we’re younger; no one can possibly offer us any insight that doesn’t match our own. We skate from one year to the next, until we eventually have to decide what to do with the rest of our lives. And even then, we have that cushion of college, the ultimate in years spent “finding” yourself. And really, all these years later, has any of us truly found what we thought we were looking for back then? 

I recall one teacher in high school who constantly warned us that, as many “friends” as we had collected through those formative years, there would come a day when less than a handful would remain. “Two, maybe three, tops,” he would say. “Just you wait and see.” Impossible, we all scoffed, as we remained confident that all those whom we spent the majority of classes and extracurricular activities with would always be by our side. 

It wasn’t immediate. In fact, there were many friendships I maintained throughout college and even beyond. But, with each passing year, the list grew smaller. This is not to say that we would be incapable of picking up where we left off on any given day; but it’s not the same. Gone are the days of constantly talking on the phone, making plans to catch up, replaced instead by an occasional text message, a vague reference to “grabbing dinner” one of these days - and there it generally remains. 

If anything, this realization only confirms that I should have fully appreciated those school days as they were unfolding. How young and innocent we were, how little we knew of what was to come in the years that have since elapsed… how precious that time truly was. 

Here’s to all the students living those years as we speak. May they always appreciate them the way I have now learned to in hindsight.

 

{Published: September 13th, 2017}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment