My niece's birthday was yesterday. She turned 15. It's crazy to think about that. She was born a month after I graduated from Madera High School. In fact, I remember my sister incredibly pregnant on the night of my graduation seemingly ready to burst at any minute. I was decked out in a shiny blue cap and gown taking pictures with friends I would see only a few times afterwards, and some never again. The hopes, aspirations, and goals which were all set on those nights and prior seem further away to me now than that day 15 years ago. Shortly after I graduated I moved away to Oregon.
I wrote a lot more when I was 18. In fact one goal was to have a novel published by 21 and be a millionaire by 25. It's funny how the money always played a role in my dreams. Me and Phillip, my best friend at the time, used to drive down this very wealthy street in Fresno called Van Ness and look at the houses. We would pick out which one we wanted to own. We were both so sure that it was a matter of when we would be living there and not a matter of if.
There had been a lot of family drama during my junior year in high school and early into my senior that the graduation seemed a respite and climatic changing of the momentum. Things were going to go my way now. The world was mine to conquer. That yacht, mine. The cars, I'd have them. Books, screenplays, movies, all of those things were in my horizon. In fact I had to be successful because even my journalism teacher told me I would be. He gave each of his students a word to take with them and his explanation of what that word meant. His word for me was "vision." He said that no one had a clearer vision of where they were going and what they could accomplish than me.
But we all do this don't we. We look back instead of in front of us. We look for answers for old questions instead of asking new ones. I certainly do. I spend a lot of time with my regret list and my "what if I had done this instead" list. Our minds distort things too. Make things larger events in our life than they actually were. They make people seem larger in our lives than they were. When Amber Baker ripped up my baseball card in the fourth grade in front of my friend's house I thought she was the most evil girl in the world. Especially since she was so pretty. And when I kissed my high school girlfriend Kristi one final time before getting in my car and driving away from Madera for Oregon, I thought I would never love someone again.
We can look back fondly at memories but we don't see the whole truth. Only what we want to see. Knowing this it is still hard to fathom how fast 15 years went. I know I've been fortunate to experience some pretty amazing things, this year has been one of the most special (and the most painful) of them by far, but in a way it's because I'm trying to catch up. I feel I've wasted a lot of time. I didn't follow through the way I should have. I coasted. I chose the easy way instead of the better way for me, preferring my Lucky Charms instead of my Wheaties. When the short-term fix outweighs the long-term benefits, I'm setting myself up for failure.
Yet we can't look back with regret. Every decision affects where we are today and who we are today. Yesterdays blunder leads to todays revelation. Things happen for a reason...right? I hope so.
Anyways here is a poem I wrote back when I was 18. It's words still seem true to me today:
My clock read 11:11 and immediately you came to mind
I remember how we made wishes to see what we would find
You would wish for this moment forever
As we held eachother tight
You would wish for a lifetime together
Each and every night
Your wishes were poetic
However unrealistic they did seem
You wished for happiness and endless love
All wrapped in a heart-shaped dream
My wishes weren't as pure as yours
As I'm sure you would have guessed
I wished for fame, money, and sex
With enough time in between to rest
I didn't feel the need to cling
Nor desperately hang on
I felt life had a plan for us
That we had to follow along
As time progressed we grew apart
And each went seperate ways
I convinced myself it was for the best
Though I thought of you most days
I missed your smile, your laughter, your tears
And even the way we used to fight
But most of all I missed those moments
When we held eachother tight
So as I sit alone tonight I began to play our game
And though you weren't right next to me
It almost felt the same
I could hear your laughter in my ear
I could see your smiling face
And as I glanced back at the clock
My heart began to race
I didn't want to wish for fame
Nor any fortunes I could amass
But as I planned my wish for you
Time had already passed