Thoughts by Richard Bleil
She’s my friend. Well, she’s not a great friend, although I do wish we were closer. In fact, she is the daughter of one of my best friends, and I found out (about a week ago) that she is engaged. Her mother and father brought her to Rapid City when I was working as the director of the forensic lab which is when I met her.
She was in high school then and was considering forensics as a career choice. She was quiet, reserved, very pretty, exceptionally charming and extremely intelligent. But being intelligent does not mean that you don’t struggle. She never had trouble, her mother tells me, with her academics. She worked and studied hard in college and had the grades to prove it, but she did struggle. In a way, she was far too much like I was, because it was the social aspect of college with which she struggled.
I honestly don’t recall if I was talking with her about this (we didn’t speak often, but we did speak on occasion) or if I was talking with her mother about it, but she didn’t feel as though she really fit in. The problem, as I understand it, was that she struggled with her classmates, saying that they are just not serious. Apparently, in high school, she was looking forward to being around more academically minded people of her own age, but that’s just not what college is about.
No, college, at least for most students, is about partying, freedom, experimenting and already knowing everything. I spent weekends doing laundry and staying in my room as an undergraduate because I really didn’t like drinking and partying and seeing these same students on Monday made be think that I was correct in this decision. I suspect she is very much as I was. With her interest in a law enforcement career, I know she wasn’t experimenting with drugs, and I doubt that she ever really drank heavily if at all, which immediately would have made her an outcast, and like me, she seemed to have trouble making friends.
I remember telling her (or her mother) that it just wasn’t her time yet. Somewhere between “The Paper Chase” of highly motivated and hard-working students and “Animal House” of complete goofs is reality. I have a good friend who showed up to one class one time and failed out her very first semester (I’m thrilled to say that she is months away from graduating with a degree in psychology today with plans to continue to graduate school). This is what truly happens to the “Animal House” style students. I was the other kind of student, holed up in my dorm room, wishing that I was somebody, anybody, else.
There are distinct times in life. College was not her time, nor was it mine (including graduate school, although thanks to my beautiful office mate and great friend it was so much better). I told her (or her mother) this, and predicted that once college was over, and she found her career, she would find much more serious minded and mature people with whom she would better relate. Of course, it’s not immediate, as those established in their careers would eye her suspiciously as a new college graduate. Today, she is still in the law aspect of society (but not where she thought she would land), moved back to her hometown and she’s getting married to a man that apparently, she has known since childhood.
It’s funny where people excel. I have only been to one of my high school reunions (fifteen-year reunion as I recall). One thing that really struck me was how many of my classmates were really and truly stuck in high school. It was the glory time of their lives, with great heroic sports accomplishments, where their greatest memories are, as well as their friends. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and yet these are the same people that made me so exceptionally jealous back then. They were the jocks and popular kids that I would never be and could never understand how they achieved such lofty goals, and yet, they were the pinnacle of heights for their lives.
This is sounding far more insulting than I mean it to be. I’m very happy for those who went on to lead happy lives, enjoying the fruits of their efforts. Not everybody had aspirations as I did, making it reasonable that they never had the accomplishments that I had, and are very happy with their spouses and families that I will never have. Perhaps now they look at me and wonder what I did to have achieved what I did, but the irony is that we, as a people, tend to ask “what did he do” rather than “what did he sacrifice”.
Now I’m in my retirement phase (I think, although I’m considering an entirely new direction now), and am struggling with what little I am accomplishing. This is, I suppose, the point of this blog. Everybody’s life goes through phases. Maybe we should think of these phases as individual. To lack accomplishments in one phase, like college, does not mean that you will fail in the next as my friend is now on the precipice of truly great things. Neither does success in one phase guarantee success in others, like my classmates who dwell on their high school accomplishments. Primarily, we need to learn to be happy with ourselves, with our development, and with our presence in the life phase in which we find ourselves today.