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Sunday, April 23, 2006

My 20 year high school reunion is this fall.

It’s something of a momentous occasion I guess.

When word came, I discovered I was cast adrift in the first stage of alumni limbo (maybe the Sargasso Sea is a more apt metaphor). A friend of mine from high school, a more social, more popular person than myself, put them on my trail by passing on my e-mail address. I’d flown under the radar for a time, but now I’m found. They’re still searching for some of our classmates. So I wasn’t among the abjectly lost or deeply hidden, but I wasn’t among the readily discoverable either.

The curious thing is I’m still working the same job that I had at our ten year reunion. I’ve married and moved residences since then, but I’m in the phone book, and my house (where I’ve lived for almost 7 years now) is less than 4 miles from the campus of our school. All that makes me wonder how hard anyone was looking.

Don’t get me wrong. I never expected to be on the planning committee. Not my style. I attended the ten year reunion and enjoyed it. I tend to like myself better as an adult than as a teenager. And there’s the added benefit of no wedgies. High school wasn’t miserable for me, but, thank God, I didn’t peak at age 17. I don’t live and die by reunions. I plan to go to this one out of curiosity more than anything else and would be disappointed if I couldn’t make it. On the other hand, I don’t have any strong connection anymore to the school or my friends from that stage in my life. Sorry.

My senior year, someone went around our English classes and interviewed each of us (probably less than 20 seconds a piece) about where we’d be in ten years. I’m in the profession I predicted, but in a less orthodox version of the job. I was voted most intellectual in my high school class and as a result, I think everyone expects I must be some version of a mini-Bill Gates type. They’re going to be disappointed.

I’m not wealthy, or close to it. I’m not famous or powerful or influential. I do think I’m balanced. My fiscal net worth isn’t going to impress anybody, but I’d put by blood pressure and cholesterol readings up against anyone. And I’ve still got as much hair as I did in high school. Actually, I’ve got more since it’s started cropping up in all sorts of new bodily neighborhoods. Oops. Too much information, right?

Somewhere on the near horizon there is the potential for a career move. Considering I’ve only held two jobs since graduation 13 years ago, job changes are significant events for me. This one seems to make perfect sense, like the next step in a natural progression. And it might be what I do for the next 20 years. But I don’t know what’s around the next bend. I don’t believe in 5 year plans. “Networking” is the n-word in my vocabulary.

I came out of law school, stressed-out, wired and overly earnest. And overly religious. I appreciate that my values didn’t lead me down the rabbit hole of a corporate big law firm high profile law practice. My bank account might be healthier if I did, but my soul would not be. I graduated with an informal association with a small “Christian” law firm. That path was the result of hours of prayerful consideration and few other options. I think it shows in interviews when the description of the job you’re interviewing for makes your skin crawl. Thankfully God spared me from the path I thought He had set me upon when the senior partner of the firm informed me they couldn’t financially afford a junior associate and the attorney I knew best at the firm informed me the week before I took the bar that he was leaving the firm. It was one element of a series of unfortunate events that left me emotionally, medically, professionally and socially shipwrecked and clinically depressed for at least a year. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a crucible of sorts.

As time went by, I found out the firm that at one time looked like an oasis in a bankrupt profession had major financial problems because the aforementioned senior partner had used his religious objections to certain federal policies as an excuse not to pay income taxes for quite a few years. Said partner also shows up with regular frequency in the state bar association’s reports of disciplinary actions for such things as inappropriately co-mingling client’s funds and a non-attorney coworker of mine who knew him from college claims he was one of the biggest druggies on campus in his day. Hmmm.... hypocrisy, thy name is lawyer.

Sometimes you learn to be thankful for life’s little catastrophies.

After that disastrous charge out of the professional gate, I learned not to plan too far ahead. In the realm of the best laid plans of mice and men, I was clearly a rodent and not a homo sapiens. A friend of my parents who worked in state government cast me a life preserver of a temporary job offer somewhere around a year after I began treading water. I made a place for myself, did a good job, swallowed a lot of pride, recharged the batteries of my self-esteem and in about 18 months, was hired away to the job I now hold and have held for ten years. Before I took this job, I’m not sure I said the first prayer about the decision. It felt right. And I was still gunshy with the whole prayer mumbo jumbo.

Since that time, I’ve had other job offers, have considered leaving several times, and declined to even pursue certain other opportunities. They haven’t felt right. Maybe they weren’t, or maybe I’m lacking in ambition. Or maybe I’m afraid.

Anyway… this next option out there on the horizon has the initial feel of the “next right move,” but it’s not in my control. In this case however, I have created my own opportunity, tentative as it may be. Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. My dad saw the ad in the classifieds and recommended it to me. A co-worker gave a glowing and entirely unsolicited recommendation to someone she knew who was involved in hiring. But there it was. Fate, or God or random chance had placed me in my first job, which set me up to get my second. Ten years of work, learning and development in that position has, I think, ideally suited me for where I may go next which looks like a heck of a nice oportunity. But at times, my life seems much like a river with a strong current. I can make minor course adjustments and perhaps avoid rapids or hazards here and there, but ultimately it’s taking me to a pre-determined destination.

Maybe that belief is reflective of other changes in my life over the last ten years. In 1993, I was moving out of a briefly charismatic phase in my spiritual development which probably contributed to my quasi-superstitious manner of directing my life.

Now, I’m a Presbyterian.