Last weekend the Wahlert High School Class of 1977 held its 40th reunion in Dubuque. Like all but one of the other reunions, I did not attend. This time it was not because I didn’t want to attend and see my 500 or so classmates, I simply couldn’t. But I did follow the action on Facebook when I could. Of particular interest to me was the 1973 8th grade graduation class from Nativity Grade School, most of who continued on to Wahlert. My interest was piqued primarily because a classmate posted a picture of the class in all of our 8th grade glory. Or in my case 8th grade awkwardness.
Looking on the list of people I hadn’t thought much about in almost 40 years made me a little sad that I wasn’t able to go to the reunion and find out more about their lives. It also made me wonder what would have happened if I had made different choices back when I was a teenager. What if I had the courage to ask that girl(s) I had a crush on in high school out on a date? What if we really liked each other? What would have happened if I had tried harder, studied more and took a few chances? Would my choices of college and career have changed? Probably.
I looked at the pictures of my classmates at the reunion and how they have changed over the years. Most of the guys have put on weight, me included. Quite a few of them had significantly less hair or it was significantly grayer than their pictures in the 1977 yearbook. Mine is thinner and grayer as well. Some of the girls I recognized immediately, some I had to look several times before I believed it was really them. Again my mind wandered.
What if I would have stayed around Dubuque and gone to college there? One thing is that I probably would have never met Joanne, got married and had 5 fantastic kids with her. And that would be a shame. So instead of thinking “what if I had…,” I started thinking about the people in my past who have made a positive difference in my life, whether they knew it or not. I have been blessed to have great people to work for and with. And great friends over the years who knew how to nudge me in the right direction.
One of the reasons I couldn’t go to my class reunion was so that I could attend the annual Celebrate Life event for On With Life. At that event I got to hear Jim Autry speak on choosing gratitude. Autry is the former CEO of Meredith Corporation’s magazine group. Hearing him speak about his career, his battle with Parkinson’s disease and how he chose to be grateful for the positives in his life vs. his challenges fit in perfectly with what I was thinking about my reunion. As small business owners and managers we have the awesome responsibility to be grateful for what we have, who we work with and to make life better for all those we encounter. And we are in a position to make it happen.
As of today, I am going to try really hard to attend my 50th class reunion. I am guessing that we will all be heavier, grayer and full of stories. And I am praying that those stories will be full of joy and gratitude, and not what if’s.