Saturday, January 20, 2007

PFC Jessica Lynch, Y2K, and nothing to do with triathlons

So I was checking the top news stories yesterday, and saw a nice happy story of that former POW Jessica Lynch. "What a nice story," I thought. So I clicked on it.

I read it, and had a "wait--you've GOTTA be kiddin' me" moment.

So I had to do a little searching to find out if you've-gotta-be-kiddin'-me was in fact, true. It wasn't, but in the process, I accidentally discovered where someone I once knew was. A person I had a relationship with, when I lived in Cincinnati 8 years ago. I accidentally found that person is, for all intents and purposes, doing what I knew he'd worked hard to do, had a job at a certain university, and also was married like myself. And I thought, "Well, that's nice. He was a good guy, and even though things didn't end very well, I always knew he was a good guy."

And then for some reason, I didn't think about HIM anymore, but everything surrounding his memory. It was like I was watching a movie where he played a very, VERY small role, and the important stuff was really everything else.

I'm turning 30 this year. I'm actually really excited about this. But I have to admit that I'm already starting to feel a little sad, not at getting older because there is SO much to look forward to. But, for how AWESOME my 20s have been. Still are, I should say. I've still got 6 months. :)

I started thinking about where I was when I was with this person--how we met at a Mount Adams bar that I can't even remember the name of when Jacks was visiting from her 2 year program in Lexington, KY. Writing my number on a napkin. Dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

BUT--what's more important is that I remembered everything else about that time--it just started coming to me in these waves and I started smiling--and even laughing!--at the memories. I remembered being a first year teacher that fall, living with 2 of my best friends and having a ton of friends within 10 miles of me. Thinking I knew what I was getting myself into, as, 4 weeks after turning 22, I moved into my first real apartment, and I entered my first real classroom. My parents took this picture right before they left after helping me move in.
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Then, I remembered having 168 students and realizing that teaching was in NO WAY what I thought it would be.

How in some ways it was the hardest year of my life, and in others it was the best thing that I've ever done, being at that school, staying up until 3:37am grading and thinking and trying so hard to figure out how to teach subjects I knew so well to 168 subjects I was struggling to reach. I remember making the decision to move that spring--to leave my friends and the classroom I was finally getting warmed up in. I remember the scrapbook the kids made me, that I still have, with all the notes and pictures they wrote.

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I remembered these freshman girls, who are now 22. They are the age that I was in that picture. My seniors that first year are now 25. I remember all of their names, when I went back through my books. You never forget your first class.

I remembered packing up my classroom that June, after saying goodbye. The second the kids left--the moment the last one shut the door--I cried the whole time.

I thought about meeting Rizzo, another brand new first-year English teacher who was placed directly across the hall from me, and realizing just how important it is for some people to come into your life. How things change and you move on, and move up, and move away...but they've changed you and will always be with you. How strong she was with what she was going through, and how close we got so fast--us "outsiders:" her playing the role of Jersey girl, me a Clevelander with a "funny accent," both of us with Italian last names and a sarcastic sense of humor.

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I'm reminded that the relationship that reminded me of all these times was over by Y2K. It was short. But I remember it being fun--I remember laughing with Rizzo about these things on our morning commute across 1-74 in our old cars with 140,000 miles on them, listening to the Dixie Chicks and Y96--the ONLY time in my life I've ever listened to country music. About riding the bull at some hole-in-the-wall-bar called Bobby Mackey's in Kentucky. (Kentucky!)

I remember how my friends from Cleveland came down for New Years 1999, and Mindy came home in the middle of her 2 year Peace Corps stint in Belize. And how that night I had all my friends, old and new, there to celebrate what many thought would be the end of the world. But our computers won't work! But our cell phones! Stock up on water and batteries! How now, as I look back, it seems so ridiculous. We had no idea that the day that would really change everything-everything-would come 21 months later, one sunny morning in September.

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I remembered all the mistakes I made. Some were good--like Sheryl Crow says, "my favorite mistakes." Some changed my life and led to a lot of happiness. Some were very bad. And every time I fell flat on my face, either that year or later years, these girls were there. I lived my Carrie Bradshaw years in an apartment with them, and I lived paycheck to paycheck on my small teacher's salary, but I felt as rich as a queen.

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All of this hit me today after reading a stupid little news story. It's bizarre--like I'm staring back at this decade, but at the same time looking forward at a new one. And I think--can it be as good? Can I be surrounded by such friends? Will I make such dumb mistakes? Will I have as much fun? We are all a few hours away now, not a few miles: Denver, D.C, St. Louis, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, Cincinnati. Many of us are married. All of us have great jobs, some of us have kids. But I'm also reminded that at the time, some things seemed so bad...some mistakes irreversable, some problems insurmountable. Sometimes, I'd call Sam and Jill and not even be able to talk--I'd just cry. But they were there. We got through it--everything. Every time.

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So now I've got nothing left really to do, except be reminded, by a roundabout and rather random way through a story on the news, of how good I have it. I wouldn't trade any of these memories, these mistakes, these friendships for a billion dollars if you offered it to me.

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And I understand that I have many, many more mistakes in my future. But, what I also have are amazing friends who will be there to catch me, and I'll catch them, too, even if they are not in my time zone.

My twenties are almost done.

So, I'll take all these memories with me as I turn a new corner and open the next door.
"We do not remember days...we remember moments." --Cesare Pavese

21 comments:

RunBubbaRun said...

Lots of memories to keep us thru the good times and bad. These memories also teach us how to strive for more in our lives.

Thanks for the memories. (wait till you turn 40 like me, young IronMan :)

Audrey said...

This was an amazing post. I'm 26 and I'm also living the angst/happiness/figuring it all out that is your 20s :) Very cool writing.

TriShannon said...

I think it is our experiences and memories that shape us and usually our mistakes are what make us stronger.

Even though we no longer live in the same house, on the same block, in the same city or even the same state, you know I am always there for you.

Habeela said...

I love this! Thanks for the reminder.

Lana said...

Life is what you make of it. You made the absolute most of your twenties, and no doubt you will do the same with your thirties. Cheers!!!

Wes said...

Each year/decade is like a new ring of the tree. Each with its own experiences, mistakes, victories. This why I like to come by your place, Sara. How beautiful this post was.

Triteacher said...

Yep, that first year of teaching... "teaching was in NO WAY what I thought it would be." You hit the nail on the head! I was defending schools and teachers again this weekend and had to point out that there is absolutely NO WAY anyone can appreciate the complexity of a classroom unless they're living one.

I liked the rest of your post too, but that really struck me. Guess I needed to hear it. Thanks!

TriBoomer said...

Sarah,

Although I'm 45 (soon to be 46... shhhh) I clearly remember my twenties as a fabulous decade of my life. Thanks for taking me back to good places.

Stay tuned...

Kurt said...

I am to old to remember much of my 20's!

My 40's have been the best period of my life for me.

Good post, if you do it right, it just gets better and better.

TriSonq said...

I really enjoyed reading that entry.

So much learned and accomplished.
So much more to do!

Laurie said...

I got chills reading about your first year as a teacher. Thanks for making me reflect today.

Cliff said...

TriSaraTop...

woah.u never change at all..keep it taht way.

The goal is to make your 30s as much fun and memorable if not even more so than your 20s :)

There is only up....

Fe-lady said...

What a great conglomeration of memories and pictures. You have done so much in the past eight years and should be so proud of all you have accomplished.
I can't imagine my daughter stepping into a classroom in another 2 years...you were far ahead of her maturity-wise.
The years just go by more quickly- and suddenly you are in your 50s with your own kids grown and you wonder how it's all whooshed by so quickly! Enjoy every min. of every day-but I guess I don't have to tell you that! :-)

Susan Oseen said...

Wow you sure did have a lot of great memories in your 20's. You know what the best part of the 30's is? Creating new memories. Memories that you'll look back at when you are 39 going on 40 thinking about all the good times:)

Marathon Maritza said...

Such a wonderful post, thank you for sharing...

Rachel said...

I'm in your same boat (I'm 29). Great post. I love the stories of teaching. That's fantastic. Great pics too.

Kewl Nitrox said...

Aside from being reminded that I am 10 whole years older than you and that my thirties is just about over and the associated feelings of being over the hill....

I am encouraged that you stuck to teaching despite the "surprises" early on about the work load and what it takes to be a teacher. Thanks for deciding to be someone who would change lives.

Rae said...

Isn't it so strange how turning 30 makes you think? I'm so looking forward to it but I also want to make these next 8 months some of the best ever, too!!! We need one massive 30th party this year!

Comm's said...

I bet it took a hundred times longer to write this post that think those thoughts. They go through your head so quickly. Thanks for sharing.

Glenn said...

Twenty years ago, when I was in my 20's, I was married to someone just starting her first year teaching. She spent so many late nights grading papers & so many days crying, wondering how she would ever survive. Our marrige didn't survive, but she is still teaching, as far as I know. My mom was also a teacher. As Triteacher said "There is absolutely NO WAY anyone can appreciate the complexity of a classroom unless they're living one." Great post, I like how you write the day that changed all our lives was not Y2K, but 21 months later...

Steve S. said...

Yep, you NEVER forget your first class. Mine wasn't good...

And those old pics of you are SUPER!! Ha!