A few weeks ago my wife and I were enjoying the television series Encore. In the show, a group of people get back together after several decades to perform again a high school musical that they performed while they were at school. At some point in each episode, the director of the play asks the cast what advice they would give to their high school selves. Several of them said that they would tell their younger selves that everything would turn out o.k.
That question has been on my mind a lot since I binged watched through all of Encore. Two weeks ago, I went to my parents to do some chores and found my old high school yearbooks. I read with nostalgia and fondness the things that my classmates wrote in my yearbook. And I thought of the question that they asked in Encore. I remember being scared after I graduated from high school and then college. I wasn’t sure I was ready to be an adult. What if I failed and became disappointed in my life. And I thought of the answers that so many people gave in the show Encore.
Everything will turn out o.k.
I didn’t become a famous and wealthy artist. But I’m still doing art. I have a wife that I love and friends and family whom I appreciate. My life has taken turns that I was not expecting. I’ve done things that I’m proud of and made mistakes that I regret. I’ve made friends and I’ve lost friends.
One of the most important things for an artist to do is to find their unique artistic voice. In a similar way, I think each person should find their own unique voice if they want to live an authentic life and not be trapped in a box that others put you in. I think that is a lifetime project and we’re always learning new things about ourselves and about life. There will always be individuals or groups who will try to tell you what to think or what to believe, whether it’s with politics or religion or other things. Take what you find useful and disregard the rest. If some person or group tries to impose their beliefs on you or control your life, then you have to hold on to your unique self and resist the pressure.
I have met some high school and college friends who only want to see me as I was during my school days. I have to admit that I sometimes make that same mistake when I initially meet old friends and assume that they are exactly the same.
I’m sure there is a part of me that is still that school kid. In the thirty years since my high school and college, though, I’ve gone through a lot of different experiences and learned different life lessons.
And my old school friends have gone through a lot. Some have raised families and entered fulfilling careers. Some have gone through financial difficulties. Some have faced cancer or other health problems. Some have struggled with mental health issues. Some served in Iraq and Afganistan.
None of us goes through life unscathed. We all will have our triumphs and disappointments, our joys and deep hurts and losses. In our fifties, our concerns turn towards caring for our aging parents. Unless we were cyrogenetically frozen, I don’t think it’s possible for our 50 year old self to be the exact same as our 20 year old self. For most people, that’s probably a good thing. We should always be working to becoming our best selves.
To weather the difficulties in life, we all need individuals whom we could laugh with and be ourselves with and just lean on when we get overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. When you find individuals like that, they’re worth more than gold.
I have fond memories of my high school and college years. But I don’t want to go back to that time. I like my life now. There are too many art projects I want to paint, places I want to see, friends and family I want to visit. My mind goes back to that question in Encore.
Everything will turn out o.k