Dear Class of 1992:
Twenty years ago and some change, I stood in front of you as one of three valedictorians giving a three-part speech we wrote together called "The Three L's: Life, Laughter, and Love." I took the "love" chapter and cried a little at the end, just enough to make my voice break and embarrass my poor mother. All in all, I think it was a good speech we gave and we hit just the write chord between looking back in nostalgia and looking forward with anticipation. High off of achieving my dream and graduating at the top of my class, I filed past my classmates to go back to my seat.
"Who's that?" I heard someone whisper just as I walked by. And that was my first important real-world lesson: being one of the smartest people in the room sometimes doesn't mean squat.
This weekend you will be reuniting and celebrating twenty years out of high school. Some of you met the goals you set for yourselves that sunny day in June, 1992; some of you took a different path carved from disappointment and necessity. But the fact that you are able to dress up, drop your adult responsibilities for one night, and have a beverage or three with your former classmates is a good sign that you are at least a functional member of society. Congratulations! You're not dead, completely broke, or homeless. Success doesn't always mean a private jet and money hidden in the Caymans.
I am sad that I can't be there with you this year. I am the mother of a swimmer, and instead of toasting you I will be toasting in a heated natatorium having a nervous breakdown over whether or not my kid finds her way to the correct lane for the 100 IM. But I am lucky in that a few of you are close friends who I get to see or talk to whenever I want. And I am Facebook friends with enough of you to know who's gone crazy, and who's gained weight and who's lost weight, and who married well and who divorced well.
Even though I can't be there, I am sure you and I will share these two thoughts over the course of our Saturday evening:
1. I can't freaking believe I've been out of high-school twenty years; and
2. Beer is awesome.
If anyone were to wonder, "Whatever happened to that one girl? The one that ugly-cried during her speech?", here's what you should know.
I went to college, graduated, started a career, got married. Went back to college, got a job in a related field, moved back to northern Kentucky. Had a daughter, got cancer, beat cancer, did not beat the daughter. Yet, anyway; the teen years are still ahead, so there's always that possibility. Lost some people I loved, learned to hold on tight to the ones who are left. Started writing a little, discovered craft beer, became a founding member of a fake video-game-based rock band, found that I'm a pretty good cook. Travelled a teeny bit to locations mostly coastal, and plan to explore the world more. I live a fairly quiet, happy life, and though I'm not quite where I thought I would be when I stood in front of you, I have no valid complaints or regrets.
I finished my speech on love all those years ago with a quote from Les Miserables: "To love another person is to see the face of God." I am still moved by this line, and when I look at my child, I know that it is an absolute truth. But today I am going to leave you with another quote I've come to love from yet another musical (some things twenty years doesn't change.)
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.
(From Wicked, by the way.)
I know you can't see me, but I might be crying a little.
So raise your glasses, class of 92. In twenty more years, who knows where this crazy roller coaster of life will have taken us. For some, sadly, all the way back to the station. But try not to think tonight about your eventual death, or the fact that our best years may be behind us, or that we are, oh yes we are, getting old. Eat, drink, and be merry. Enjoy one another's company. Change a life simply by being a friend. For, the three L's aside, that's really what it's all about.
That, and a good craft beer. Trust me on this one.