Well, we’ve made it to August. That means school begins again and folks are either back in school or about to be (14 years I’ve been in Phoenix, and I still think it’s weird that schools start at the beginning of August; where I grew up, the first day of school was the Wednesday before Labor Day, and temperatures didn’t regularly hit 110+). This year school is an odd reminder of the passage of time and how much life can change.
June marked 20 years since I graduated high school. I was ready to jump into college for a degree in criminal justice (likely with a minor in sociology or psychology). I had considered aiming for law school, but decided that required a filter between brain and mouth I didn’t (and still really don’t) have. But I had a very different view of the criminal justice system then than I do now. To be honest, I had a different view on a lot of things – the me that graduated high school wouldn’t recognize most of my beliefs at this point.
Jump 20 years later and we find that I left college after a semester and a half (primarily money related – I realized I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and that was WAY too much debt to go into for that; I guess some things haven’t changed) and moved across the country (a few years after leaving college). Admittedly, leaving Pennsylvania was never a huge surprise. I don’t think I knew anyone at graduation who even vaguely considered I might stay there. Nothing against where I grew up, but it was never where I was meant to be, and that is one thing I knew EARLY.
Since I left college I’ve worked a dozen jobs in nearly as many industries (and killed nearly as many cars, though I’m thankfully without a wreck; just bought the cheapest thing that would turn on and ran it until it wouldn’t for many years). I’ve reached multiple milestone ages I was sure I’d never make (and I’m not that far from another). Life has made many unexpected turns in that time.
While there was never any doubt I was leaving Pennsylvania, I’m not sure Arizona was EVER on the list. But then the economy crashed, a job contract ran out in the middle of a hiring freeze, and my mom extended the offer for me and my SO at the time to move across the country. (Word of advice, don’t shift drive cross country in a vehicle you’ve never driven before with a trailer attached while never having driven with a trailer either. We arrived without incident, but that’s an experience I would not repeat.)
There’s been a marriage, a divorce, another marriage (the second one to an SO from before the first one, because life is weird) and A LOT of friendships gained (and lost) in that time, but somehow a place I’d never even considered has become more home than the place I spent 20 years growing up in. Or at least 20 years growing older in – there’s a lot of argument to be made that I didn’t bother to try the actual growing up part until moving to Arizona. I’ve managed to grow a mustache and some degree of a beard (no joke, I didn’t touch a razor until 2 ½ months after I turned 20, and I didn’t really need to yet then) and my politics have moved farther left than 18 year old me could even see. And somehow I’m managing a band (or so I’m told).
Of course, some things haven’t really changed. I still have no idea what I want to do for the rest of my life (seriously, how is it we expect 17 and 18-year-olds to know that?!). But now I’m okay with that. Twenty years ago, I thought I was some kind of failure not knowing that. Now I’ve decided that not knowing that is okay. I’ve decided what I do for a job isn’t really the important part of me. So I work my 8-5 so I can get my paycheck and be who I am outside of work. Because I’d rather work to live than live to work (though if I won the lottery and didn’t have to do either, I’d be more than happy to take that too). In particular because of all the things that have changed in the last 20 years, the biggest is the thing freshly graduated me would have found the hardest to believe – I like who I am when I’m living. So on that thought, here’s to another 20 (or more) years.