Wonder Years

Joan smiled, touched the side of my check and said “You are so cute! When you get to Taylor I am going to take you to prom.”  I blushed. She spun away. And, with each turn, she gave me a glance over her shoulder.  It was spring time. It was prom season. My older sister and her friend Joan were trying on their dresses. Joan was a sophomore at Taylor. My sister was a freshman. And, I was still an eighth grader at the middle school. It was an off-hand comment. But, Joan was a cheerleader. She had big beautiful hair. She drove a car. I had a crush on Joan. She was going to ask me to prom next spring.

When prom season arrived the following year, I would wake up every morning and wonder “Is today the day that Joan asks me?” Riding the bus to school, I would wonder “Will Joan start driving me to school?” Opening the large double doors into the high school, I would wonder “Is this going to be the best day of my life?” Walking the halls, I would wonder “Is she thinking of me”? During classes, I would wonder “When will she ask me?” Eating lunch, I would wonder “How will she ask me?” Listening to the closing announcements, I would wonder “Why hasn’t she asked me?” Walking to my locker, I would wonder “What do I need to do to get her attention?” Before closing the door to my locker, I would wonder whether she would be on the other side. But, she never was.

The anticipation that launched my day would turn into disappointment, insecurity and self-doubt. I would wonder “What is wrong with me?” But, then, I would make up excuses for her. “I am sure she is very busy. She must have lots of homework. And, of course, cheerleading takes up a lot of her time.” And, then I would think about what tomorrow would bring, fill back up with hope and wonder “Is tomorrow the day that Joan is going to ask me to prom?”

It was a non-stop loop. I was always wondering and waiting and wishing.  For a period of time, she owned me. I lacked self-determination. Joan controlled my highs and my lows. I felt helpless. I was helpless. Now, I can easily forgive my fifteen year old self for this situation. However, there are still plenty of times in my life when I have behaved in a similar manner. All of them have one thing in common. I have placed too much control over my life into the hands of others. And, looking back, all those times have a similar rhythm, feel, momentum and dynamic. It is a helpless dynamic. Instead of creating a future, honing my skills, discovering my talents, establishing my mark, and setting up my style, I am wondering. I am wishing. I am waiting. I am standing outside someone else’s office door holding a boom-box above my head willing to say anything to get their attention, approval, and their index finger pointed in my direction. I am waiting for someone to ask me to the dance.

My wonder years are over.  I should say I want my wonder years to be over. I want to stop wondering and start dancing.

And, Joan, no hard feelings. You were great. And, you were not responsible for my happiness. I was. I am. Nobody else. But, I must say, my young electro-funk self could do the robot like no-one else. .

Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (@blucollarprof)

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