One thing I really love about writing a blog are the possibilities it gives me to interact with people I’ve never met and the chance to form new connections and new friendships. I have had so many great emails from folks in the last few months about things I’ve written. This week was no exception. Lots of people, online and in person, wanted to talk to me this week about the piece I did on our city and its future. The responses were, for the most part, positive. People love Bangor. They love living here but, like me, they are concerned about recent trends. The good news, however, is people aren’t giving up. They not only want to talk about it, they want to be involved. They understand that a city is a living, breathing, growing, changing entity and they are willing to be patient while we work through our growing pains.
I don’t know about you but like our city, my life has been a series of well-intentioned plans and readjustments to plans that didn’t work out, a constant work in progress. Remember when we were young and envisioned our adult lives? We had it all mapped out like a Disney fairy tale. We would follow plans A, B, and C and the end result would be living happily ever after. In these fantasies, handsome princesses never let you down and you are forever as beautiful as the day you were first drawn!
In the real world, plans change and time marches on. My oldest child recently told me that he and his friends, Bangor High Class of 2002, are planning their ten year reunion. The conversation sent me on whirlwind of adding and subtracting years in my head. How old is he now? It’s been ten years since he graduated high school? How many years has it been since I graduated from high school? I can’t possibly be that old can I? We talked about all the ways he and his peers have changed in the last ten years and all the ways the world around us has changed.
Class reunions are one of the mile markers of our lives, a time to re-assess. They cause us to look back at who we were then, at the person we thought we’d become some day, and at the person we actually turned out to be. Very rarely do those predictions and the actual results match up exactly and that’s okay. Too often, however, we look back regretfully at the things we set out to do that are still left unaccomplished instead of focusing on and appreciating all the great things we have actually done!
My high school yearbook had a section called “In Five Years.” I had a vague memory of my prediction but so as not to misquote myself, I grabbed the book and reread it after my conversation with my son about reunions. This is exactly what my 18 year old self said back in 1983. “I will have graduated from Ocean State Business Institute and be working as a secretary. I will probably be married and have at least one kid. I will also probably be dying of boredom.”
Clearly I hadn’t set the bar very high, had I? I just wasn’t capable of seeing that far ahead yet or of realizing that my possibilities were endless. One thing I’ve learned as an adult is there will never be a time when we can say “there, everything is good right now, exactly how I planned it.” So often we waste time thinking that once we find that perfect job, or that perfect relationship, or get through this or that trial, we will finally, live “happily ever after.” It just doesn’t happen and while we are waiting for that moment, we are missing out on all the wonderful unplanned things that are happening all around us.
While some of my predictions did come true, thankfully, there is so much more to the story and so much more that I’ve accomplished. One thing I can tell you about my life, with all its ups and downs and misadventures, is that it has never for one minute, been boring. Even when I went off course, there were important lessons to be learned. I look back now, all these years later in middle age, with tremendous gratitude for wrong predictions and unexpected life events.
The same is true for our community. We work hard. We make plans and predictions but things happen we didn’t anticipate. The end result is often not anything like what we thought it would be. Some of our plans will be successful and some we’ll have to reconsider and change. We can only see so far ahead. As a community, we’ve accomplished some really great things but there will never be a time when we can say we are done, that we have found the right formula for living happily ever after. We will always be growing and learning and changing because a vibrant, alive city is always a work in progress. There is still lots to do, lessons to learn and new friendships to make. What will our community look like when the class of 2012 has their ten year reunion? The possibilities are endless and one of the possibilities is that things may actually turn out better than we could have even imagined.