Life Lesson #1: Never let drunken high school alumni decide your fate

I stood in the crowded bar in Madison, Wisconsin, yelling over the din of one hundred slightly tipsy graduates of James Madison Memorial’s Class of 1990. Ji-Hun, a former classmate was in front of me, looking almost exactly the same as he did twenty years earlier. He knew me right away. We began our conversation with the same dry dialogue I had had with thirty other people already that night, sharing the ways we had succeeded (or failed) at this thirty eight year old juncture in life.
On autopilot, I explained I was married, and the parent of an eleven year old boy and three year old twins. “And I’m still here. I never left Wisconsin.” I said.
His jaw dropped.
“Becky Meyer!” he said using my maiden name. “Of all people, you’re the last one I’d guess would still be here as a housewife. I thought for sure you’d be living in some yurt in Mongolia or teaching Mandarin to children in Nairobi. What happened?”
I eyed the highball in his hand and forgave him for this comment, and initially just laughed it off, but throughout the night, Ji-Hun’s words bothered me. What had happened? I was the still the same Becky—the one who used to wear a Mao hat and Indonesian batiked dresses to English class and ate Chinese bean cakes—not because they have any redeeming flavor, but because it enhanced my worldly image. But here I was: a housewife with a load of kids, a house in the suburbs, and a Toyota minivan.
On the drive home after the party I cursed myself, wishing I had created some fictitious fate to tell my classmates. The story of my exploits as a Planned Parenthood ambassador to Bonobo chimpanzees would have been way more impressive than telling everyone I lived just four miles from our former high school.
Before kids, my husband Shawn and I planned on exploring the world, discovering strange places and occasionally eating creatures we previously believed were meant only for the display cases of the Smithsonian. We had grand plans, but Shawn’s job was stable and when our first baby came along and we just couldn’t see leaving the grandparents (who by the way made excellent, free babysitters).
We knew this was a sorry excuse for never seeing the Greek Isles, but life was good, so we chose not to shake it up.
That evening after my high school reunion, I had a fitful night’s sleep full of dreams where I never quite made it to the airport. When I woke up I was still plagued with the thought that I might never get to live anywhere else, so I made a resolution. Later that day, amidst the chaos of three whining children, screaming above an episode of “Phineas and Ferb,” I told my husband Shawn what had hung on my mind all night long: “I think it’s time to move.”
It may not have been the wisest move to base a major life change off a casual comment made by a drunken former classmate, but he did have a point. It was time to make a change.

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