Several months ago I realized I had no idea where to find my class ring. (Now keep in mind I’m thirty-five.) At first I didn’t understand why I felt so disappointed that I’d lost it. Frankly, as an eighteen year old, I couldn’t wait to leave high school behind and everything that it entailed, including my class ring. I honestly don’t remember once thinking about it between the ages of eighteen and thirty-three.
But then, after taking two years off from teaching to stay home with my newborn daughter, I returned to instructing high school English and noticed how excited the kids were when it came time to order class rings. I’d always considered them kind of silly as a teacher and a way to fleece young people—a racket, in other words, and a worthless investment at that.
However, I soon found myself feeling nostalgic, and that’s when I realized I had no clue where to find my own class ring. Of course, as we are wont to do, the minute we don’t have something we want it all the more. But as I thought about it harder, I realized it wasn’t just my class ring I missed, but my whole sense of a past self. I have a difficult time remembering things from my personal history, for some odd reason, and the older I become the more I forget about my youth. I’ve actually had high school friends tell me stories I don’t recall at all. It’s always bothered me that I don’t remember the old me very well, and when I realized I’d lost my class ring—the most potent physical manifestation of high school to exist—I sincerely felt that I’d let the “high school me” down yet again.
This story does have a happy ending, though. This weekend (January 14, 2012), my wife, three year old, and I were digging through my closet looking for a toy I thought my little girl would enjoy. I came across an old box on the top shelf and pulled it down. Even as I saw all of my old high school track medals and ribbons, it never dawned on me to even hope I would find it, but there it was—my class ring. I don’t think my wife and daughter had any idea why I was so excited, but for a guy who constantly feels disconnected to his own past, this was quite a victory. The minute I picked it up I sensed an instant connection.
Looking back, I don’t know why I was in such a hurry to get out of high school. Those memories I do have from my time as a Tiger are almost entirely happy ones. I had great friends, a good education, and an ideal home life. I think I was simply eager to get started on my future (I’ve always been a bit anxious). Now that my future is here, now that I’m the man I want to be, now that I have an amazing life that I surely don’t deserve, I want to go back and tell my high school self to relax, to live in the moment, to pay closer attention to things, and to keep track of that class ring!