Two Saturdays ago, my high school class of 2002 celebrated our 10th high school reunion. TENTH. As in ten. Years.
It still shocks me, actually, that it's possible for ten whole years to have gone by and yet, like so many other milestones in life, I can't believe it's only been ten. I've lived so much life in those ten years. I was still a baby then, so completely me and yet a totally different person. I was sweeter then, and I didn't know how to make pot roast. Napoleon Dynamite hasn't come out, we didn't have I-anything and the whole world lay at my fingertips and it was exhilarating and scary.
I was scared to move on from high school because I think I'm one of the select few who loved high school in spite of how tough it was at times. I was incredibly blessed to have somehow landed in an entire class year of kids who were just- how do I say it?- pretty darn cool. This could have been the naive, happy-go-lucky, always-assume-the-best personality I had in high school, but I don't remember cliqueishness or tons of mean gossip or people being bullied in my school. In our class, it was good to smart, it was good to be artistic, it was good to be athletic, it was good to be a singer, it was good to be funny, it was good to be an actor; everyone was generally accepted for who they were. Sheltered, much? I was the avid horse girl in high school, skipping most school events and school-sponsored extracurriculars in favor of my beloved barn and horse shows. Our school equestrian team only had like seven girls on it. I drove a huge, brown pick-up truck that my friends named Billy Bob.
I felt safe at my school and I felt cared for, especially during the rough times after my horse accident when I had to show up there every day with a swollen face covered in bandages. I guess what I'm saying is that pretty much my whole grade was one big, happy Glee club. We had our issues, but we pretty much stuck by each other.
I am incredibly thankful for those years and those friends. I remember being so afraid to graduate, so afraid to move on because I loved my family, my friends, my barn, my school. I couldn't imagine that life could get better, but I had a plan and dreams and in spite of fears, I was ready to try to make them happen.
When I was 18, I thought I knew exactly who I was and where I was going. I was going to be the veterinarian I dreamed of being since I was eight. I wanted to work at a zoo or at a horse hospital as a surgeon. I was going to the University of Maryland to major in Animal Science. I thought maybe I would go to vet school in New Zealand. I certainly was going to ride horses every day, no matter what.
Have you ever noticed that the more certain you are about an outcome, the more likely it is to be entirely different than you planned?
Right from the get-go, I loved college. Who doesn't? Most people say those are the best years of your life, and while I can't pick favorites in terms of eras of my life, I certainly thought they were at the time. Those years had all kinds of challenges and tears but they trumped high school, and I thought high school would be hard to beat. In college I made life-long friends and I learned who I really was; what my strengths and weaknesses were, what mattered to me and what didn't. Before long I'd dropped my certain veterinary career for a major in public relations. I planned to work for a non-profit doing PR after graduation.
Except I was head-over-heels in love. I went and backpacked Europe for a month without him and by the time I got back I knew I had to spend the rest of my life with him.
Thus began the sticky, messy process of meshing two sets of lives and two sets of dreams. There was a time there before we got engaged where it almost fell apart. It was then that my older-than-me friend looked me in the eyes and told me, "Taylor, there is nothing better than this." I could have searched the world over, but I know with every piece of my heart that it would have brought me right back here; to the husband who loves me and the baby who's perfect and the church we adore and the friends we cherish and the families we need.
Sometimes I sit back and survey this little life- this incredibly average, very normal life- and I can't believe it's mine. I'm not doing anything extraordinarily different, nothing that any other woman has't already been doing for eons. I'm raising a baby I love with every fiber of my being, I'm making meals and changing diapers and cleaning floors, kissing boo-boos and reading stories. But right now, I know it's what I'm meant to do. This life is not perfect- oh, if these walls could talk some days!- but it's mine and I love it, even when it's hard and frustrating.
So this is where I am, ten years from then. And actually...I didn't go to my 10-year reunion. I know, I know- that's really lame. My excuses, though valid, make me sound old and mom-ish and involve money and a sick toddler and a full day of photography work outside in the cold with a fever. I wanted to go, but a late night out in DC just wasn't feasible that day. Instead we spent the evening with my family, eating Thanksgiving leftovers and giving my baby and my niece a bath and watching a movie. Not simultaneously.
This is how I spent my 10-year high school reunion:
I'm not a horse vet. I didn't go to my reunion with a DVM at the end of my name tag and I haven't been to New Zealand. I haven't ridden my horse in two years. (He's an overgrown dog at this point.) This isn't the life I planned to have 10 years ago; no, it's way better than what I thought I wanted back then. My life has been pretty good, but I think these are best days of my life.
Cue Bryan Adams song!
And for the record? My sweet husband and baby just walked in the door with the gluten-free pizza they picked up. My baby rang the doorbell, like she always does, then they opened the door and I heard that precious little voice yell, "Welcome home, Mama!" That pizza and a plastic tub of Christmas tree ornaments are calling my name.
Home (and your dreams-come-true) is where the heart is, after all.