Thank You for Not Peaking in High School

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This is my dad’s senior picture. It’s been hanging in my room since I came to college. I will acknowledge that this is moderately to very weird, but there are a couple of good reasons I keep it around.

It took many years after I unearthed this gem, at the beginning of high school, before I could look at it without laughing. I think this classifies me as a cruel daughter. In my defense, it’s a hilarious picture.

When I was in high school, thinking about my high school-aged dad in this picture made me cringe more than a little bit. From what I’ve been told about the eighties, those glasses were in style. From what I can gather from eighties movies, the cool kids generally didn’t wear them. I assumed a direct correlation between this picture and the level of my dad’s popularity. I felt bad for him. Back then there was a little part of me that kind of believed that popularity and other people’s perception of coolness were an accurate measure of success.

A lot has happened to me since I spent a solid five minutes rolling around on the ground, laughing at that picture in my grandparent’s basement.

For one, that basement no longer belongs to them. The house has been gutted and sold, the furniture has boxed up and divided between pawn shops, Goodwills and a storage unit. My grandparents don’t have a garden anymore. They can no longer see a river out of their back window. They live in assisted living facilities now.

It was a hard move from that bright, high-ceilinged house in the country, to the “the home.” It was especially difficult for my dad.

He was responsible for everything. He packed up all of his parent’s belongings, sold what could be sold, gave away what could be used and watched a stingy couple eventually move into the beautiful property that his parents had created. That’s what HAD to be done, but what he did and what he does everyday is more than that.

When my grandparents’ health started to crumble, he was the pillar that held up the family. I watched him do everything in his power to make sure they were comfortable, looked after and loved, without ever showing a crack himself. It would have been easy to do the bare minimum. Despite this, he somehow managed to take care of his parents, his wife, kids, job, coach soccer and still be a caring, rational, functioning human being.

When I left for college I took that awful picture with me because I knew I was going to miss him and everything he has done for our family.

I had stopped looking at that photograph as an unfortunate memento from the awkward stage of my dad’s life. It had become a measurement of all the things he has done and accomplished since it was taken: a personal aspiration for me.

The yearbook picture has made me realize that it doesn’t matter what someone looks like or who they used to be. I shouldn’t be choosing who I surround myself with based on their appearance or what they were like in high school anyway. What I should really care about is how they treat the people they care about.

I know now that success isn’t defined by the elusive trait of “coolness” and popularity is a scam. I’ve watched the “in crowd” from my high school become increasingly less cool. I’ve seen my group of hard-working nerds thrive. I’ve seen the pictures of my college friends in high school. They weren’t that cool either. I think it is okay to laugh at who we all used to be. They were nerds too. They made it through. We all have.

It’s all in perspective now. I’ve seen the man that the boy in that awful yearbook picture has become. I know that he wasn’t very cool back then, but I also know that “cool” is subjective. “Cool” is the last thing that should be measuring a person’s worth.

And if it’s any consolation for my past opinions, I think he’s pretty cool now.

 

 

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