I recently attended the 50th anniversary reunion for the Olney High School class of 1967. I went with great apprehension. Some of it was the normal apprehension of being with people you haven’t seen for decades, wondering if you will have anything in common other than some ancient history. But then I had my own personal misgivings. I didn’t even have much ancient history with these folks. I was only in that class for one year.

My senior year had all the ingredients for being the worst year of my life, at least my life up to that point. The ingredients for disaster began when my father announced to our family that we would be moving to Olney at the end of the school year in 1966. I was to be a senior in the fall. I was planning to graduate with my friends whom I’d known since the sixth grade; the guys I grew up with, the girls I’d fallen in and out of love with. Instead, I was about to be transplanted from the pine forests of East Texas to a dusty little town where I knew no one. To add to my distress, three weeks before school started I made a trip back to East Texas to be a pallbearer at the funeral of one of my dearest friends.

I started my senior year sad, angry, lonely, and scared. I held out little hope it would get much better.

Thanks to some of those who attended the reunion, my year was not a disaster. In fact, it turned out to be an important and pivotal year. I decided to attend the reunion so I could thank some of those people.

Most of my classmates had been born in Olney and had been together all 12 years of school. They had a cumulative history to celebrate, and their senior year was a culmination of that history. A history that did not include me. My senior year would not be a culmination year for me. It was a stand-alone year to survive.

Gratefully, many of those classmates made a space for me. I made some friends, got involved in some activities, fell in love a few times, was dumped just as many times. Life, not just survival, did happen all around me and within me.

What made the year not only survivable but pivotal was that I was forced to step outside my comfortable self. I can count at least 8 different jobs I held that year, one full-time during the summer, the rest part-time and temporary. None required marketable skills, but they all required me to step into something I’d never done before. At school I tried out for the senior play and got a small part. Academically, I took the two most useful classes in my life, typing and wood shop. Best of all I was recruited by the cheerleaders to design and help paint the signs for each football game. An introvert spending quality time with the cheerleaders! Anything better? There is not. IMG_2092 copy

I still do not have the shared history that my classmates have, but I have stories. And if you can walk away from a job, an encounter, a relationship with a story, you have something with the potential to teach you. The school year 1966-67 was just such a year for me. By the time I went to college that next fall, I was far more prepared to step out of myself in new ways because of those folks from the class of 1967. Thank you all.