It's been ten years since I slammed my locker shut for the last time and with a carefree spring in my step, walked out of the doors that I’d walked into 5 days a week for the last 12 years of my life. Ten action-packed years. Incredible years. Difficult years. It’s been a decade since my grade graduated, and to celebrate that, there will be a grade reunion.
In a prelude to what it’ll be like, I met a classmate on chol hamoed. I was walking with my little niece in a jungle gym when I saw her, surrounded by what seemed like a half a dozen children and her husband at her side.
Unchanged me. Me, with my own hair on my head, no extra baby fat sticking to me, no dark circles under my eyes from too many sleepless nights. Me, unfettered, single.
I saw her eyes lock in on mine until a glimmer of recognition lit up her face. We smiled, said “hi” to each other and walked on. It felt awkward for both of us, like a stark reminder of the disparity in our lives.
I admit that at first, I felt self-pity welling up inside of me. What do I have to show for my ten years that have passed so swiftly?
But then I tried to change perspectives and made a decision not let it get to me. I know that beneath the surface, I don’t resemble the person who graduated ten years ago. The past ten years have been the most happening years of my life. I’ve been through more than most people do in an entire lifetime. I’ve had my absolute best, my absolute worst days in those ten years. I’ve been to hell and back in those ten years. Through it all, I’ve learned my most valuable lessons as I’ve grown as a person, as a daughter, as a sister and as a friend.
So yes, I’m proud of the results of those ten years. Sure, I have a lot more to learn and G-d knows how much more work I need to do. I’m by no means a perfect or complete person. But I’m a traveling person, I’m on this journey that will take me to greater heights, not letting my challenges deter me from continuing on the often difficult trek through rocky mountains and rugged terrain. That is why the prospect of meeting my grade-mates as the only one still single doesn’t scare me. I plan on walking into the hall with my head help up high.
I’m no fool; I know that there will be moments of sadness for myself. I hope, more than anyone can know, that by the next reunion I will have a ring on my finger, a wig on my head and wallet-sized pictures of my brood ready to be whipped out at the slightest expression of interest. But for now, what matters is not what they can see, but what I know. I've been around the world as far as experiences go. I've gotten burnt when I got too close to the equator and I've gone numb from the cold when I traveled too far from it. And all this time, I have never experienced the comfort and support that only a spouse can give. I've never kissed a child knowing that I won't have to hand him or her over to his parents. I haven’t had much in terms of physical possessions that are mine but one thing I have, that nobody can take away from me, is the growth and experiences that have made me who I am. And that ever-evolving person is someone that I think I can be proud of.