Monday, January 13, 2014

The Best Years of Our Lives

When you come to certain turning points in your life, it’s completely natural, and maybe expected, to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately. Partially because of an unexpected promotion at work, which has more-or-less changed the trajectory of my career path, and partially because of a little thing called Facebook.

Facebook is largely generational. When I was in college, it was just starting out. At that point, it even required a college email address. It was for college students to connect with fellow college students. A sort of year book and who’s who of your classmates. I can remember sitting in a computer lab at the University of West Georgia and creating my account. I remember scrolling through the profiles of my college classmates, and the joy I felt when I first saw the accounts of old high school friends.

After a couple of years, it became apparent to me that facebook was a lot like high school in a lot of ways. Your online worth was measured by the number of friends you had; the number of times someone wrote on your wall, or liked your status. It was all a popularity contest, and for the longest time, I struggled with the same feelings that overwhelmed me in high school.

Will they like me? Why didn’t so-and-so “friend” me? Why does she have so many friends, and I only have a handful? What am I doing wrong?

The insecurities ate away at me as they had done so many years ago. I suddenly felt like I was sitting alone in the cafeteria or walking to class by myself or fading into the background…again. You hear a lot about the good times people have in high school. I’ve heard people I know say it: “I wish we could back to those good old days. Things were so much easier back then.”

But is high school ever really easy for anybody? Am I the only person who would loathe going back to that awkward, lonely time? I know the answer to both of those questions is probably “no.” I wonder then why things like high school and Facebook come so easy to some and so hard for others?

I’ve long since stopped measuring my worth by the number of friends I possess on some website or even the number of acquaintances I have in real life. I know the people whom I can call genuine friends, and I know I can probably count those people on both hands. To me, that makes me lucky.

Sure, the insecure teenager of my past would look at things differently, but any day of the week, I would rather have a handful of real, authentic friendships than all the Facebook “friends” and “likes” money can buy. I’d rather sit in the cafeteria with my four true-blue friends at the “loser’s table,” all of us knowing full well that our best days are ahead of us, than sit at that popular table where social status is the measure of our worth.

Looking ahead, it’s easy to sometimes look back. I look back on the years I spent in high school and those when I was less secure and less proud of the woman I am with not regret or sadness but with a sense of appreciation. Appreciation of lessons learned and prayers unanswered. Appreciation that I do not look back on the best years of my life but am always able to look ahead to days that grow brighter with each passing year. 

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