Back in the day (I shamefully used this phrase the other day when talking to a teenage girl at my church) when I graduated high school, we had an epic class song. Anytime I hear it I'm taken back to three ring binders and being seventeen and sounds of slamming metal lockers.
Green Day's (Good Riddance) Time of Your Life. It will forever be a classic in my mind. His nasally voice, the acoustic guitar, the soft orchestra in the background. It's definitely on my top 25 of all-time favorites.
At the end of the school year, we had this big senior meeting. The one where the superlative awards were given out. You know - Most Likely to Succeed, Most Talented, Most Beautiful. Yes, we had a most Most Beautiful award. The thought of it still makes me want to gag a little. The winners got to wear these large ribbon banners with glittery letters that exclaimed how incredible they all were.
The entire meeting felt sad and shameful for me. I felt like a big nobody. High school was something I merely survived. Granted, there were a few shining moments being in choir and some vocal competitions and performances. But for the most part, high school was a drag. I had a few friends, I was an average student, and it was just there.
My senior year filled me with the anticipation of leaving, moving on and finding something more. Hopefully finding some kind of life outside of everything I had ever known.
After the awards ceremony, they played a slideshow and the last song that came on was our class song. I watched photo after photo of my classmates at various events that had been held throughout the year on a giant screen. Football games and dances, friends with their arms wrapped around their necks laughing. Pep rallies, 80's dress-up day and girls with krimped hair and blue eyeshadow. Michael C. campaigning for Student Council President even though we all knew he had it in the bag. It was everything I had missed out on. I wasn't there for any of it.
And even at the age of just barely eighteen, that realization hit me deeply. I had missed it. I had missed out on some big thing that could have been great. It was the time of my life and I didn't even know it. And there it was passing me by as I watched each picture come up on the screen reminding me of where I had failed, what had been taken from me, and what I would never get to have again.
A few weeks later, I walked the stage wearing my burnt orange cap and gown, took my diploma and slammed the book shut on high school, on being a sad teenager, and feeling like a nobody. I only looked back to say....good riddance.
There have been countless lessons learned since I was eighteen and not voted Most Anything. All that I had anticipated after graduating and leaving "the time of my life" behind me, led me to the discovery that there really was more just as I had hoped there would be. I began to believe that I wasn't a nobody and that I wasn't late for this big something in life that I was afraid I had missed the boat on entirely.
At thirty-one, I have a better grasp on truth. One thing I know now is that I'm not missing it anymore. Because really.....it is always, always the time of our life.