A family's story

Party Like It’s 1994

The rumblings started during the Polar Vortex we had this winter. “Remember when we had those cold days in high school?” “They cancelled school during finals our senior year.” “Hey, are we having a reunion?” “Someone should get on that.” The rumblings turned into discussion. The discussion turned into planning, and lo and behold, my 20 year reunion is this Saturday.

Pardon me for a minute, but how it is possible? Wasn’t 1994 ten years ago? What’s this “20 year” baloney?! I’ve seen the memes on the Interwebz….”When someone says 10 years ago, you still think it’s 1992, 3, 4, etc.” I am incredibly guilty of that. I lost the decade of the ’00’s. Really. Guess that’s what getting married and starting a family does to a person.

To be honest, I was contemplating skipping the event. On one hand, thanks to Facebook, I am able to keep in touch with several people from that era of my life. I watch their families grow, admire their vacations, laugh at their overgrown zucchinis, and express heartfelt sadness when they experience a loss, whether it’s over a kid going into high school or over the death a parent or grandparent.

On the other hand, I get stuck in the inertia of the expectations that were set 20 years ago. I think about the fact that my 18-year-old self (and the 18-year-old selves of my classmates) would have been gobsmacked to find out that I am not some jet-setting business guru. She would be aghast that I wear sneakers with jeans and capris instead of a power suit downtown(and she’d be floored that most people don’t wear “power suits” to work anymore). She would probably fat-shame and wonder why I don’t exercise more and why my arms and mid-section are soft and flabby. In many ways, my 18-year-old self would see my 38-year-old self as weak and unaccomplished and unhappy. And I wondered, would my old classmates see the same thing?

As I fretted over it, I realized that my worries and concerns were superficial. Sure, on the outside I may not look all that impressive, but my 18-year-old self, and the others who I may run into on Saturday night, who knew me back then, but certainly don’t really know me well now, don’t know how I’ve come to the place where I am today.

I may not be a jet-setting business guru. I may not be “successful” in the sense of a high-paying job or title. But I am successful at what I am doing. The juggling of 3 boys, special needs, IEPs, therapies, extra-curriculars, and family fun is a full time job. Everyone gets what they need, is well-fed, well-cared for, and incredibly loved..and they know it. I run the household, pay bills, plan meals, and clean. I support a husband who works tirelessly outside the home so that I can work tirelessly inside of it. (And I wish I could tell my 18-year-old self that working inside the home is whole helluva lot more difficult than working outside of it.) There’s no shame in being at home with my children. None. There’d be no shame in working outside of the home, either, but right now, our family needs me more here than a company or corporation would out there.

Heels and power suits have no place in my closet. I have, maybe, 3 pairs of heels. I RARELY wear them. I donated the last of my suits a few months ago. If I ever decide to go on an interview in the future, I will buy a suit that is current and not from 2003. I love my jeans and my capris and my sneakers. I am comfortable, and the “uniform” helps me do my job effectively. I may not look overly flashy on Saturday, but I will look like me, and that’s what it is all about.

I am a little heavier than I was in high school. Part of me wanted to use it as an excuse to avoid the reunion. Then I remembered…I was a little on the chubby side back then, too. The extra pounds I carry today come with the sedentary lifestyle of gathering information about autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, how to work with a school team to have an effective IEP, how to help a child cope with anxiety, and how to make a mean pasta sauce. They come from sitting on the floor with my kids to play Legos or Go Fish or cars. They come with shuffling kids from religious ed to therapy to soccer practice. They come from volunteering in the classroom and with PTO events that put me in the school and in front of the school staff. They come from sitting in hours-long IEP meetings and therapy waiting rooms or on bleachers to watch baseball or lacrosse. And, well, they do come from comforting myself with a cookie when the going gets tough.

The weak and flabby arms and tummy? Well, I should exercise more, and I am working on that, but honestly, these flabby arms and mid-section aren’t as weak or disgusting as they may appear. They have gently cradled babies as I fed them and bathed them. They have held an upset child who needs to know that he matters and is safe. They have provided a safe haven for a child from harm–or from bees. They have comforted a husband who is fed up with work. They have bathed and cared for an ill mother who is not able to do it herself. So yes, they may be flabby, but that is not to say that they aren’t strong.

I may not be running the rat race at a corporation. I may not have a corner office–or cube. I may not be slender and chiseled. I may not be wearing the latest business fashions. But I am happy. And I am content.I have my husband, who loves me more than words and is supportive of all I do. I have my boys, who are (and have) my heart. I have friends who understand and support me for who I am.

So, I am going to that reunion on Saturday. I’m going to stand tall (or well, as tall as I can at 5 foot nothing), hold my head up high, and march into that room to show my 18-year-old self, and anyone else for that matter, that I am proud of who I have become. I am successful. I am strong. And I am happy–especially in my jeans and sneakers!

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