What a difference a couple of decades can make! I recently attended my 40th high school reunion – the last one I went to was my 20th, and there’s a lot that happens in a 20 year span. While I was really looking forward to it, I found myself feeling a little sad on the way home, which is certainly not an emotion I was expecting. In the days since, I’ve thought a lot about why that was.
I think some of it was what I’d call life and the passage of time. At my 20th high school reunion, my classmates and I were in the prime of our lives and career – most of us were feeling young, enjoying life and working toward our life goals. We were in our late 30s and still had a lot of living ahead of us. Most of our parents were still with us and many of us had small children or teenagers.
Fast forward 20 years to the 40th reunion. The first thing I realized was that I couldn’t recognize many of my classmates. Several people had our old yearbook, which I hadn’t looked at in years. As I flipped through the pages, I recalled many of my classmates looking at their senior pictures; but I sure would have struggled to pick out very many of them today without name tags! While there were a couple that I still recognized, many looked like strangers to me. The aging process is funny that way. The physical aspects creep up on you gradually so you don’t notice all the little changes over time in yourself and those you spend time with regularly. However, seeing the changes in people my age that I hadn’t seen regularly or at all over the past 20 years was eye-opening.
The hard truth is that we’ve all changed a lot, and not just physically. Many of us had lost one or both parents since we last met, some had been laid off or displaced, almost all were empty nesters, and instead of talking about our parent’s health problems, we were talking about our own. And almost 30 of our classmates were no longer living.
I suddenly realized that “we were it.” As a generation we are becoming the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families. We are community, civic and business leaders; church elders, grandparents and, for some, retirees. And the “somedays” no longer stretch as far out ahead of us as we always thought they would.
It felt strange to suddenly realize we are the generation that younger generations now look to for strength, guidance, leadership, wisdom and experience, much as we looked up to our parents’ generation in the past. That’s quite a responsibility if you think about it, and not a little daunting.
Has a recent event or milestone in your life caused you to reflect on where the years have gone and where you find yourself today? What was the catalyst for you and what revelations did you find most surprising?