This past weekend was the yearly festival that is held in my hometown. Every year, when we spend this weekend with my parents, family, and hometown friends, I run into people from my past that I haven't been able to keep in contact with. Sometimes it's a wonderful meeting, others are extremely uncomfortable. This time, I ran into a girl that I was casual friends with in high school. We were never close, but we hung out with the same people and tended to be invited to the same activities.
As I remember spending time with her years ago, I remember a smart, friendly, sweet, cute girl, with a not-so-great home life, but with a great attitude. She had a job from the moment she turned 16 and worked hard throughout high school. Although she had things going against her, I always admired her ability to rise above her circumstances, and still be the good person that I had observed.
My meeting with her, over the weekend, made me sad. She is no longer that cute, friendly, sweet girl. She is now someone who looks to be about 60, with no upper teeth, and in the 5 minute conversation we had, all she did was swear and complain about her horrible mom (who was the only reason she no longer has custody of her three children). The conversation was extremely uncomfortable.
When she tried to exchange phone numbers, I'm sad to say, I gave her a bogus one. When she tried to talk to my kids, all I could think was, "Please, don't scare them!" and "Could you take the cigarette out of your mouth first?" Hours later, I was still thinking about how, this once, lovely, smart, motivated girl could turn into the person that I met on the way to the festival?
This meeting made me really appreciate my life, my choices, and where my family is going. I didn't have the easiest upbringing (especially during my high school years), I hung out with the same kids, I also had a job almost immediately after being eligible to do so. So what was so different about her life? What had caused her to go down the path she is now on? Although I don't think there are many things that could have made her decisions mine, no one thinks they will end up where she is. Her life, is no one's goal.
I have to give my husband a lot of the credit. He, like me, had future plans/goals that got us on a good path. He is so responsible, respectful, and logically-minded. I know having his positive influence changed my future for the better in so many ways. Choosing to go off to college immediately after school helped as well. I became friends with people who had similar goals and were motivated in a positive way. My own life goals and plans didn't leave a great deal of time/opportunity for less than desirable influences either.
This meeting also made me think about my boys. I never want to see either of them in this poor girl's position. I want them to be happy, healthy, successful, and strong. I wish that I could sit down and dissect her life and those of the others around me who have had to struggle, so that I would know what to avoid, how to help, and what values to instill.
I have such a difficult time thinking about how we only get one shot at living a good and happy life, and her shot has been tainted (at least so far). There is always a chance to change your life, make it better, be who you want to be, but I don't want to waste a single minute. It's just sad to think about how many of them she has wasted.
If you can't tell, my conversation with the person that I once knew, has left a lasting impression on me, and has brought several things to light: How lucky I am, how amazing my husband is, how hard work and goal setting has shaped my life, to think about helping my boys through the tough times they will surely go through, and how anyone's life can be affected by negative/positive influences.