Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The company you keep...

Where to start?

I just spent the most incredible weekend with dear friends I have not seen in 20 years.
And yes, they are the dearest of friends – even after 20 years of minimal contact.

I’ve told you before about my years at Six Flags Over Georgia.
It was an amazing place to work as a teenager. And although Place and Time are an important component of this experience, I recognized this weekend that PEOPLE are the most vital ingredient.
Obviously, we cannot go back in time to recreate those years. I have not been back to the park in at least 20 years. The closest I got this visit was driving by it on I-20. But I was immersed in the people and personalities that made it what it was (is) for all of us!

This reunion experience was a curious study in memories, emotions, growth and recollections. (Any sociologist would have had a field day!) Those were some of the best summers of our lives. We literally came of age together – going from gangly, hormonal teenagers to know-it-all young adults. So of course we brought those immortal feelings of youth back with us to this reunion. It was mentioned that back then we were "10 feet tall and bullet proof." But now, as adults, we are forced to see our lives and relationships through a more mature lens. Today we know – as we remembered those no longer with us - that none of us are immortal. I believe this realized lack of immortality gave us a new appreciation for each other.

In spite of the years and distance, we fell back into place together. Just like your favorite, faded, thread-bare concert t-shirt. The crazy over exaggerated feelings of youth washed through us all. The humor, laughter, teasing, arguing, and loving were all present. Still, we had to spend some time putting the teenage angst into the context of (semi-) mature adults. What I discovered is this: These people I believed to be amazing as teenagers ARE amazing adults today.

On a less mature note, I don’t think I got more than eight hours sleep in three nights. It was like no one wanted to go to sleep. We wanted to soak in every minute we had together. As I told some of my Six Flags friends yesterday, I remember crying at the close of every summer when I had to go home to Mississippi. My Dad would tell me that the sadness is a reflection of what a good time I had and how much I cared for the people I was leaving. The sadness and pain are proportional to the joy and love. After the last good bye was said in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I cried all over again for the exact same reasons.

It is almost impossible to put to words how it felt to look into the familiar faces of adults when the last time I saw them they were the countenance of youth. It was difficult to express to these people without embarrassing myself how much it meant to spend time with them again. As much as I love to be the center of attention, I found myself sitting back this weekend – listening, laughing, and taking it all in.

For the record, there were several folks who were unable to attend. You know who you are. You were not forgotten. I love you too! And YOU were sorely missed.

In looking back over this weekend’s pictures, there are smiles and laughter on all the faces. There was a warmth in that room you would be hard pressed to reproduce anywhere. We were not all the best of buddies back then. Some of us did not even know each other, but the bond of Six Flags Alumni is strong and undeniable.

Simply put, I LOVE these people. The memories of us together – then and now - are imprinted on my heart. I am the woman I am because of the relationships and experiences we share. You make me laugh until my sides ache. You make me cry until my eyes swell shut. You are my past. You are my present.

Thank you for being a part of my life.

Thank you for allowing me to be part of yours.

I am honored.

(except for you, Tom. I still owe you!)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I hold these truths to be self-evident

I have decided maybe it's time I write my own personal Declaration of Experience...

I have learned a great deal about me, my life and me living my life in my first 41 years. I know there is much more to be learned. And I look forward to those life lessons.

But right now I have decided that I do know a few things about myself and about life. You are so lucky as to have me share them with you...

I am fiercely independent. In thought and action.

This also translates into the fact that I detest being micromanaged by ANYONE. Tell me what you need, how you envision it done and when you need it. THEN BACK OFF.
If I ask your opinion on something, it is usually as a courtesy. So unless you make an exceptional argument for your cause, I'm gonna do it my way anyway.

I am loyal to a fault. To friends and family
If you are important to me, I got your back! Sometimes to my own detriment.

I hate snakes. Dead. Live. Plastic. Real. ALL.OF.THEM.

I am not an "Animal Person." Before you get all worked up, I do make exceptions for exceptional animals. Have been very attached to quite a few over the years. Just not the Animal Kingdom as a whole.

I believe the absolute VERY best advice I've had the privilege to learn first hand is to surround yourself with quality people. Find people with strong work ethics, high moral standards, intelligence, wit, common sense, and creativity. Seek these people out. Befriend them. They will almost always pull you up and at times even insulate you from the mistakes you would otherwise make.

Another life lesson learned is to seek out people different from you. Whether it be religion, politics, nationality, social caste, education level - whatever you perceive to separate you from them. Draw these folks in and learn about them. Learn from them. Teach them about you. I have always found our similarities are greater than our differences. And at the same time, I expanded my own life's point of reference.

I have learned that, on average, I will come to regret about 50% of the words that come out of my mouth. This realization does not stop me from saying stupid or hurtful things. Thus far I have not figured out how to turn my Insensitive Speaker off, I am just aware that it happens. And wanted you to know that I know.

If you need prescription medication to live a normal life, TAKE IT! If your child needs them - GIVE THEM TO YOUR CHILD. I know many people do not agree with this. Fine. You live your life. My family and I will live ours. I tried alternative methods. I know what works in my house. Doesn't matter what you call the problem. Does not matter how many labels they assign to your 'issues'. Really. It does NOT matter. If there is pharmacology that helps you (or your child) level out and actually enjoy each other and life, then by all means, USE it.

Seek out experts. Do your homework. Ask questions. Be prepared. READ! Plan ahead. And sometimes it really is better to ask forgiveness than permission.

Your children grow so much faster than you could ever imagine. At least mine have. My son, at five, still asks me to pick him up. And I almost always do. Because I never know when it will be the last time he asks me to do so. He asks me to walk him to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus. I always do. Soon he will be too embarrassed to even hug me.
Enjoy every second. They go by way too fast.

Tell people you love them. Tell them specifically the impact they have had on your life. You need to say it and they need to hear it. This is one of the most life-sustaining habits I have. And I should do it more often.

So that's not all I have learned. Thankfully. But it's a start. And some of the most important lessons I can share with anyone bold enough to read this.

What have you learned?