After months of anxious preparation, the day had finally come for the high school reunion. It had been 25 years since graduation and there were many classmates she hadn’t seen since that time. Occasionally, she would chance upon a few colleagues at weddings and social events but nothing matched the anticipation of being in the same space with many of her childhood friends all at once. Like a kid in a candy store, Abena was beside herself with excitement. In her search for a perfect dress, she had purchased and returned 12 dresses. None could accomplish the magic trick of making her look 20 pounds lighter and 10 years younger until she came across a simple A Line Red Dress at Nordstrom.
So with a carefully crafted pompadour and sleek high heels, she made the 2 hour drive in a loaner Mercedes to Hotel Wanlali. All through that drive, countless thoughts raced through her cerebrum. She wondered what people would think of her. At 43, she was a successful entrepreneur and a sight for sore eyes, yet she was single and childless. In a culture with prevailing notions regarding singlehood, she wondered about people’s perceptions. How could she compete with folks discussing the adventure of parenthood and even being empty nesters? Surely, she couldn’t match that, or so she thought!!
She arrived at the event with little time to spare and quickly joined in the celebration. As the night progressed, so did the interaction, dancing and laughter. Abena felt very much at home as she traded stories with her colleagues. She learnt that Sandra was a widow, John had died from cancer, Grace was divorced, Bernice was in a psychiatric hospital (following a traumatic accident that resulted in a brain injury), Paul had lost his son to gun violence and Lucy was ill. Phewww, surely, there must be some good news somewhere, it cannot all be bad luck for everyone? Abena asked!!.
Oh no, said Sarah, there is plenty good news. Remember David, the guy we discounted because he struggled in class and was always first from behind? He is now a successful businessman with lots of ventures. He also runs a non-profit that offers alternative learning strategies for children with intellectual disabilities. “Double wow, this is incredible”, she muttered to herself. As the night progressed, she heard story after story about the different stages and phases of life that her colleagues were passing through. Suddenly, a voice thundered through the room with the announcement “now it’s time for the raffle draw”.
Abena recognized that voice, and immediately turned in the direction of that smooth baritone-like sound. That was Ken’s voice, the only guy she ever had a secret crush on way back when. It had been 25 years since she last saw him and she was very giddy to say the least. That excitement soon gave way to confusion. The voice was Ken’s for sure, the smile and complexion was the same as she remembered, but that curly hair had given way toa shiny bald head, the athletic physique was long gone, and his potbelly preceded him. He looked nothing like she thought or hoped he would be. There was however one other thing that hadn’t changed,; his charm, smile and ability to make people laugh.
Abena suddenly remembered a phrase she had heard countless times from her 3rd grade teacher captioned “Beauty Fades”. The teacher was referring to physical appearance, but at that age, Abena was too young to fully comprehend. At 43, it all made perfect sense. Physical beauty does fade over time, it’s inevitable. Inner beauty however doesn’t have to fade, it can and should emerge brighter.
On the 2 hour drive back home the following day, she contemplated over poignant questions. Why did she spend all that time finding a perfect dress? Why did she get a loaner Mercedes instead of driving her own Infiniti? Why was she so desperate to impress her colleagues? Should that have been her priority at 43? Why did she think that she was a failure for being childless and unmarried at that age? What made her think her other colleagues were more successful than she was? What’s the definition of success and who determines that? She concluded that life will not always be fair, life is not a linear progression, life is war.
There are countless unfortunate occurrences in life that no one prepares us for. We are not told that we could lose a young child to cancer, become widowed at the prime of life, be wrongly accused, lose a loved one, become unemployed, etc. Yet these things occur through no fault of our own, but life has to go on. So when we experience the disequilibrium of life, it is necessary to take a breather and strategize our way back up. Every human we will ever encounter will experience their own struggles. It is therefore unwise to blindly compare oneself with the person next door.