The cliché wrapped up as a question goes something like this:
How do you see yourself?
How do others see you?
How are you in reality?
Often times our version of reality doesn’t compute with other people’s reality about us. So goes the game of life. I thought I knew but they knew better. Or so they thought. Self-reflection isn’t a bad thing if it can be done with a solid grasp of past failures and accomplishments. Satisfaction with ‘today’ can open up the world of ‘before’ with all of its nooks and cranny’s and past stumbles revealed.
Along with being born Catholic comes a certain amount of Catholic guilt and fear of the sin of pride. My classmates and I were taught early on that feeling good about one self, if not a mortal sin, was certainly venal in nature. The idea was to think only of others, to the detriment of ourselves. ‘Sacrifice now’ we were told so we could reap our benefits in heaven. It was an ancient line handed down from the priests, nuns, teachers, parents and other figures of authority. Being German Catholic with rural ancestry certainly didn’t diminish but only enhanced that message to us young-ins.
Being raised in a single parent household, ours was not your typical home environment when the norm usually centered on the classic nuclear family. As a Catholic youngster the standard path to eternal life for me was being an altar boy in grade school, 12 years of Catholic education, Sunday services every Sunday and unquestioning allegiance to the Bishop and Rome.
Self-reflection was usually considered a bad thing. A kind of masturbation of the mind. Feeling good about oneself was the worst kind of sin, that of pride.
So when I began blogging several years ago I found myself reflecting back on my life as it stacked up to that point. Without the encroaching cloak of adult authority leaning over my shoulder I was able to look back, not in anger, but with curiosity at a life well lived thus far.
It was only recently that I realized there were two curriculum tracks at Cretin High School. Seriously, I was that clueless! There was the college bound track with its challenging academic courses and then the other track for those less inclined or qualified. Somehow, I was able to muddle through high school without guidance or help from anyone.
Getting into St. Thomas College proved I could succeed academically despite my grades in high school. A brief stint at the University of Minnesota proved I couldn’t succeed in that large factory of learning.
So now at 75 with many miles traveled and some accomplishments under my belt, I can step outside of myself and look back at my life… and not feel guilty in the process. My academic career was less than Steller but it worked for me. It gave me the insight and passion to believe that it was paramount that my kids and grandkids steel themselves with a solid educational background in order to succeed in this new ever-changing world.
They say maturity is wasted on youth. That’s probably true but I won’t apologize for my sometimes foolish, boorish, immature behavior growing up. I was young and stupid and yet somehow survived those lean, mean, not so innocent years without hurting anyone in the process.
A part of me wants to apologize to past girlfriends for any awkward situations I created between us. I realize now how very immature I was at the time. The intent was there. The manner taken could have been better. I guess I was searching. I’m not sure for what.
It’s a shame I’ve lost touch with so many old friends. Back then it was just the passage of time and other interests that drew us apart. Life moved on but I lost something very precious without even knowing it at the time. Luckily, some of them are still around if only by e-mail or the occasional coffee chat.
On another level, I’m grateful for the casual acquaintances with whom I’ve only spent slivers of time over time. Circumstances brought us together for a while and then pulled us apart as our lives moved on in different directions. But the moments and memories are still there etched in my brain.
Many curtains have opened for me at this later stage in my life. And before (sorry for the pun) my final curtain call, I want to look back once again on a life well lived with all of its hits and misses and reflect with a smile on how lucky I have been.