I remember someone telling me that the best of my life will be spent in high school. At the time, that one sentence scared me to death. While I have to say that my high school experience was a pleasant one, the thought that I had peaked at age 18 was truly sickening. Are we all like gymnasts and child actors who have wondrous highs and lows and then slink away into anonymity? I surely didn’t want to end up like Gary Coleman or Karri Shrug, or maybe Sugar Ray Leonard, trying to recapture my once self-prescribed title of “big man on campus”?
Later, I went away to college with a heavy heart, for I was taken away from friendships it had taken me a lifetime to build. Again, at orientation, rush parties, pre-game football speeches, and classes, I was told that “college will be the happiest four years of your life.” I loved Hanover College, a small school located in a remote part of Indiana with a caring faculty and a close knit student body. It was just the place to hide for four more years from the grim reality of life.
After that I was tossed into the real world with my whole future right in front of me. As I was moving into my apartment after getting my first real job, my father remarked that he was excited for me: a person out there on his own just getting started. Thinking back, those were good times. I was doing what I loved – teaching and coaching – and could, with a few exceptions, do what I wanted to do. I never had to worry about staying at school until 8:00 at night talking nonsense with the other coaches or overanalyzing an opponent. Going to concert on weeknights in Indy was no problem, watching football on the TV during all hours of the night and day was a real option for me. When would I slam headfirst into real life?
I thought that it might be marriage or kids, but that has been more fulfilling than any other part of my life up until now. PTO meetings, family picnics, cleaning up puke in the middle of the night from one of my kids, and dates with my wife are now what I live for. I even have a mini-van that kicks!
I read somewhere that our body is completely different every seven years. The cells that we had over seven years ago are now replaced by completely new ones. In a scientific sense, that is probably I have allergies in adulthood that I didn’t have as a kid or why squash doesn’t make be gag on sight any more. In a spiritual sense, that might be why the happiest days in my life are the ones that are right in front of me. Yes, there have been times that my family and I have struggled and experiences I could have done without. However, not once have I wanted to go back to my high school, college or bachelor days. Good times, yes, but not something I want to go back to – sort of like Panama City.
Sadly, I do see people I went to high school with and they truly believe that high school and college were the best times – so much so that they are not able to progress much past that mentality. So what I see is a 17 year-old in a 36 year-old body.
Every Christmas my mother-in-law wishes us all to have the “worst Christmas ever.” Strange, but it makes a whole lot of sense. We all like to look back on the past with a sweet sense of nostalgia, but her point is that the present is what we need to cherish the most. So every time I hear that “(fill in whatever time) is the best time of your life,” I know that it is only partially true.
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