Posts Tagged ‘class reunions’

Self-Confidence: Trusting Ourselves Enough to Try

November 25, 2014

Over the course of my college reunion, my classmates and I swapped a variety of stories about our ongoing challenges, setbacks, and successes and what lessons we drew from these experiences. One conclusion all agreed upon was that having self-confidence is the primary, determinant factor in how our lives proceed. Believing in oneself makes all the difference in the choices we make and how we go about fulfilling the roles we play.

 

As I see it, the existence of a deeply held conviction that 1) our life is of value (even if we sometimes have trouble seeing what that value is), 2) that we have worthwhile contributions to make, and 3) that we merit success, serves as the energetic core of our instinct to find meaning and gratification in our lives. Do you realize how many people spend their days without ever thinking about, let alone pursuing such goals? Do you know people who have preferred to shut down rather than acknowledge and grapple with such intimidating ideas? It’s heartbreaking to witness. Let’s face it, re-booting is an existential struggle. A fight this big and this hard would not be assumed if we didn’t believe we were worth it. Otherwise, why bother burdening ourselves with inconvenient, deeply uncomfortable questions such as Am I doing what fulfills me? Is there are constructive purpose to my suffering? How might I take these lessons and become a better person? You don’t ask these questions without a foundation of self-belief.

 

So, back to confidence…

 

Who is someone whose faith in him or herself you admire? How do they think about themselves that differs from you? Is there a way you might copy them to bolster your own sense of self-assurance?

 

I pose these enquiries somewhat timidly because, on one hand, so much of my current, awkward circumstances makes me question my understanding of myself and my worth and yet, it is my fierce self-confidence and determination to overcome such trials that enables me to move forward. I refuse to concede defeat. So, here I am, stumbling around in the fog, chasing patches of sunshine wherever they appear.

 

As we all know, confidence has both internal and external components. On occasion, people comment on my confident disposition (which generally takes me by surprise, but I know what they’re responding to). When you think about it, isn’t confidence the first thing that catches your attention and draws you to someone? It is for me. I’m always attracted to those who radiate a calm self-possession; I find it reassuring. Having confidence about themselves invites me in.

 

I know it can feel hard to believe in yourself when you feel overwhelmed by events, seriously doubting if the choices you made were good ones. Such doubts can torment us, made worse by our wavering belief as to whether we can even manage to get through the day, let alone thrive in a future we cannot envision. But what I am here to suggest is that these struggles make you stronger; they won’t break you—you won’t let them. The motivation that propels you to get up in the morning, to put one foot in front of the other, to do what you need to do, the courage of the every day. These are not small things. All of these undertakings are acts of will, and acts of will spring out from a baseline faith in yourself. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t bother.) Faith means hope. You have hope.

 

So, you. Yeah, you there, you the re-booter. You have hope! You are kicking with all your strength to make your way to the Promised Land. You have the courage and the confidence to try. My friends would be impressed.

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A Mystical Experience

May 15, 2014

On those rare occasions when I have the house to myself, I’m like a pig in mud. Seized by an ecstasy of biblical proportions, it’s practically indecent. But, far from cavorting about the house naked or inviting teeming hordes to ragers on the deck, I am doing…nothing. Nothing at all. Haven’t even left the house. Listening to the birds sing, unruffled by any intrusion of my domain, I revel in the quietude.

 

Can you sympathize?

 

How often do you get to savor a space without anyone around to interfere? As beloved as these other people are (or are not, as the case may be), and as much as we may, overall, appreciate their camaraderie, there’s nothing quite so delightful as having the house to oneself. All my elation got me wondering what, exactly, is it that I am celebrating?

 

Not sure I know how to answer that.

 

I think, for me, at this point in my life and re-booting journey, there is little that feels within my control. There are things I have to do, but not much of it is what I want to do or in a way of my choosing. I struggle to establish an existence that feels solely mine. It reminds me of that man without a country. So, when I get to engage in the fantasy that this house is my house, living according to the whims of my own preferences, giddiness ensues. But the truth is, life with my dad isn’t so bad; I’d feel lonely were I rattling around all alone, all the time. (Virgina Woolf’s ruminations notwithstanding.)

 

What fleeting pleasures do you savor?

 

It intrigues me that certain situations can only be cherished when they’re ephemeral. Like class reunions, were we to engage on a daily basis with many of our former classmates—absent those cherished few who will forever have a place in our hearts–the magic rapidly fades. Why is it that only a few, treasured people or experiences are able to captivate us over the long term? That despite the years and miles between us, they remain under our skin, bring a smile to our faces, and remind us that we have been known, have been seen, have been cherished? Are my pleasures real or have I made them up, illusions to keep me company? But, that’s just me.

 

So, I sit on my deck, soaking in the silence, comforted by the knowledge that my solitariness has an end date. In a few days, I will rejoin the company of others. I suppose that’s where the expression, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there,” enters the conversation. Even I, someone who lingers so much on the edges of life, want to be known. I just really, really like it when I can know others in time-limited spurts.

 

Reconciling our private self with the public is more elusive than many realize. More often, as mature adults, we’re torn between the responsibilities we’ve assumed and that private, demanding, insistent part of ourself which dwells within, the one that has no respect for any social contracts we’ve signed. Problems arise when we make no accommodations for that ferocious secret self, burying it beneath the priorities and obligations of the Rest of Our Life. I think I’ve just answered my own question about why all the giddiness. It is only in moments like finding ourselves alone in the house, clandestine occasions where we get to be the person we want to be, eat, or read or think the things we want, what would we do with ourselves if we could be that way each and everyday? What would our lives be like if we were with that person who appreciates the us who manifests on that sun drenched deck? So goes the dilemma of the re-booter.

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Revisiting our past, reunion style

May 31, 2012

Here in Northwest DC, late spring is a season of budding flowers, gentle breezes, and class reunions. Ah, yes, the class reunion. We all know it; we’ve all been to at least one, and often, it can be like enduring puberty yet again. For some, a delightful romp, for others, not so much. Without fail, a snarky classmate attends but then refuses to speak to anyone. And, of course, there is always the Classmate Who Surprises.

 

Come on, you know who I’m talking about. The classmate nobody would’ve guessed to be any way other than A turns out to be Z. He or she reveals their true colors that are as much a revelation as a mystery: how could we have missed the signs? Our eyes search the room, desperate to find acknowledgement from someone else who is as surprised as we by the glory on display.

 

One prime example comes immediately to mind: a demure, tiny brunette who few in my class paid attention to returns 25 years later as a platinum blond body builder. For our updated class yearbook, she submitted a studio portrait of herself flexing in an orange bikini, holding her naked infant. Wow. I admire her confidence.

 

And then there’s the classmate who received a doctorate in Renaissance medical techniques and now “consults” with the US Navy. Undoubtedly, she must spend much of her time in undisclosed locations on an atoll in the South Pacific where the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply.

 

Or there’s the time when we knock on the door of the home where the Big Party is being held, only to introduce ourselves to our classmate hostess who’s had so much plastic surgery to render her unrecognizable. Awkward.

 

Alumnae magazine updates may be less personal, but when I read entries of our peers who write to inform the rest of us about the benefits of adhering to some humble yet righteous diet while recording soon-to-be-lost native lullabies sung in war zones or those who have created an entire cottage industry as a certified psychic or life coach, well, reports like these make me want to crawl under my twin sized bed and stay there.

 

Why don’t these updates say something more like, “I finally married a straight guy who has held onto the same job for the past five years and knows how to change a tire.” Or perhaps, “Having recently been fired, I am relieved to be gone and am now happily working as a telemarketer.” Where are these entries?

 

Personally, I would be relieved to read something honest like that than the sort of dreck that regularly gets published. And I know I’m not alone. When I once made a little noise about the type of entries that get printed, it was patiently explained to me that schools never publish such updates because it might “hurt the brand.”

 

It takes a lot of courage to return to our old stomping grounds and subject ourselves to the scrutiny of peers, but overall, most of the time, it’s life affirming. Either you’re glad you didn’t wind up like X or you’re elated to discover that Y has come into her own. The thing that’s so nice about returning to a place where we share the same vocabulary is that, even though we may no longer speak the same language, that touchstone reminds us how far we’ve come.


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