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Why is that some people look at their life in terms of being so many years removed from something? And at what point do you stop counting?
This year is/was my 25th high school reunion. It’s been 25 years since I graduated high school. Now, I don’t typically count the number of years since I graduated college. It’s been 20 by the way. Maybe that’s because we don’t typically commemorate the year we graduated college whether because we have opportunities to go beyond just a basic four year college tenure, or because we just don’t typically have a college reunion. Hell, I didn’t even go to my college graduation. There were over 36,000 undergrads at my school. I don’t think anyone noticed me missing, nor was my name probably called. Yet, there I was some 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years out of high school saying, “I can’t believe it’s been 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years since I’ve been out of high school.”
And in these, now, 25 years since graduating I have been to a total of…. One reunion. I’m one for five. I went to only one reunion despite being very aware and vocal about how many years it was since I was in high school. 20%. I enjoyed high school. It was fun for me. I had good friends and had a great time there. I went to the last one. Yes, it was the 20th because I felt it was somewhat of a milestone. Now, I did attend a breakfast for the 10th which was basically across the street from where I was living at the time, otherwise I was not really interested in going. But for the 20th, I felt there was some need to do so. Perhaps it was the being almost 40. Perhaps it was a new chapter in my life. I was going through a divorce. Perhaps I just felt like I had some unfinished business to figure out and went to see about some closure. What I found out what was that any questions I had about my life and the last 20 years weren’t being answered by hanging out with people I rarely saw in 20 years, though communicated with via social media. I didn’t unlock any secrets of the universe in that evening. I didn’t look back and think, yeah, I should have really gone to the other three and this upcoming one.
I knew that it was a small moment in this life. We all came together and began talking and planning and getting back into each other’s lives but I said that probably, after the 20th, we’d also drift back apart. I figured we would probably go back to our little corners of the world and keep each other at a distance over social media. And even that has changed in the last five years. The people I remember from high school were not the same people I saw that night… and they are not the same people I see today. A lot has changed in the last 25 years… mostly in the last three.
A lot of people can’t wait to get away from that orbit of counting years from high school graduation. Their time in the halls of their local public school could have been difficult. They could have been sad or even cruel. We lived in a different world. The advances we made in social equality we’re small, but very impactful, when our parents were teenagers but then a huge gap of 40 years before we even began to rethink the most basic tenets of acceptance and tolerance. We’re still fighting that to this day. Meanwhile, kids in high schools have worse things to worry about. Drugs and violence are more rampant than they were 25 years ago. It will have been 20 years since Columbine next Spring. Knowing the odds, I simultaneously scoff and worry that my own child will be in high school by the time my 30th reunion rolls around. The odds are so small, but I’m sure every parent, including those at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and Sandy Hook, never truly believed they’d have to worry either.
Their unfortunate truth is that they will begin marking time in years since someone has passed. As we get older, those we love will ultimately be taken from us and we will begin remembering that it’s been “X years since Y passed.” I look back at how it’s been four years since my first cat died, a year and a half, and six months since two others died, respectively. I still have one left and she’s so stubborn that she will probably outlive me and one day be marking the years since I’ve passed. It’s sad, for sure, and I’m not sure how healthy it is to remind ourselves how it’s been that someone has left us. Perhaps it’s better to remember how many memories they gave us, focusing on their positive impact on our lives instead of focusing on their absence.
But, in all fairness here is a list of important “it’s been this many years since…” that I felt were impactful and poignant in our history.
It’s been one week since you looked at me
It’s been 7 years since the end of the Iraq War
It’s been 9 years since the first version of Minecraft was released to the public
It’s been 11 years since the introduction of the iPhone
It’s been 15 years since the beginning of the War in Iraq
It’s been 16 years since the attacks on 9/11 and the war on terror began, and the release of the first Xbox
It’s been 21 years since the movie Titanic was released
It’s been 22 years since the first Toy Story came out and the verdict in the OJ trial was passed
It’s been 23 years since the Sony Playstation came out
It’s been 24 years since Forrest Gump was released and Kurt Cobain died
It’s been 25 years since the first text message was sent, the .mp3 became a thing, and the first Jurassic Park was released
It’s been 27 years since the first web page was launched and the beginning and end of the Gulf War
It’s been 29 years since the first Simpsons episode aired
It’s been 32 years since the Challenger Shuttle disaster
It’s been 33 years since Rocky IV was released and the US release of the Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s also been 33 years since the first fully CGI character was used on film.
It’s been 34 years since the first Ghostbusters movie was released and the first PG-13 movie was released (Red Dawn)
It’s been 36 years since the first Compact Disc was released
It’s been 38 years since Pac-Man was released in arcades
It’s been 41 years since the first Star Wars movie and the Atari 2600 was released and also Elvis died
It’s been 43 years since I was born and the end of the American military involvement in Vietnam
It’s been 46 years since the first email was sent
It’s been 49 years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon
It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King was assassinated
It’s been 54 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed and the Beatles first live American television performance
It’s been 55 years since JFK was assassinated
It’s been 56 the first commercial modem was released
It’s been 63 years since the first polio vaccine came into use
It’s been 65 years since the armistice was signed signaling the end of fighting in the Korean War
It’s been 73 years since the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and the end of World War II
It’s been 77 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor
It’s been 100 years since the end of World War I
It’s been 115 years since the first Ford car, The Model A was produced