Tomorrow evening, my son graduates with his grade eight class from the French immersion program he has attended since grade one. His four or five best buddies from grades seven and eight have been with him for most or all of that time. In the fall, it is off to a French immersion program in a nearby high school. All of his male friends, and most of his female friends, will also attend there.
Earlier today, I took a moment to look through my own class pictures from grades one through eight. The picture in this post is of me in grade one, in 1951. I had only been in Canada for two years, but was the only person in my class who could read. To my classmates, I was that weird 'foreign kid,' so I spent much of my time buried in books. Books didn't taunt me, call me names, or throw rocks at me. I didn't pay much attention to idiots even then. I never let the actions of others scar me. So, I read. I learned. I prepared for life.
There isn't a single person in any of the class pictures I looked at with whom I am 'in touch' in any meaningful way. One friend from the period I still see at the occasional funeral. That's about it. I can't remember the names of most of the kids I went to school with during those years. I went to four different elementary schools, so that might have something to do with it.
I wonder sometimes what happened to people with whom I crossed paths way back then. Where are they? How have they spent their lives? Are they happy?
Our lives unfold in ways mostly dictated by the choices we make. Sure, happenstance plays a part, but when presented with something unexpected, we still mostly have a choice whether to modify our path or no. If we change direction, it is because it seems to be the right thing to do at the time. Will it be the right thing, when viewed in retrospect? Maybe. Maybe not.
We cannot live our lives wishing that we had turned left instead of right, that we had dated Mary instead of Jane, that we had married Chuck instead of Dave, or that we had become a biochemist instead of a dishwasher. What is done is done. I have said before that there were episodes in my life that I wouldn't really care to repeat. Still, there would be no hesitation on my part to do so, to ultimately become who and what I am today.
As my son approaches this next stage of his life, I hope he maintains and develops relationships that will be good for him in the long run. As he and his friends don their new suits and dresses for the graduation ceremony, I will be sure to take photographs that he will be able to look back on, years from now. When he does, he won't have to say to himself: "Where are they? How have they spent their lives? Are they happy?" He will know.