Ages and stages

So I was at the university several months ago for work. This is something I’ve been a part of since I came to the branch I work at now. We do presentations to international students on banking in Canada, and some of the student programs our bank offers.

I did my public speaking bit, up in front of what seemed like a couple hundred students this time, went into and out of my zone. It often happens with any public speaking I do: If you asked me right after the presentation what I said, I couldn’t tell you. I’m not sure if that’s an anxiety defence, if I just do it entirely on instinct, or what it might be.

We had a booth set up after in the student centre, and I manned it for a couple hours with a couple of other fellow bankers. There was some amusing conversations when we got back to the branch- about styles, what we saw, and what we found strange.

It reinforced the separation I feel every time I go back to any campus, how I feel out of place there. I see perceptions changing, my peers making the same comments our parents probably made at that age. I’ve always thought that the generation gap is cyclical- what comes next will perplex me, I’m sure, perspectives I won’t be able to fully understand, even as I try to accept it. Adulthood is here, and more obvious than ever.

Part of the fun of having blogged as long as I have is seeing the changes in me. In perspectives, in desires, in what I want and enjoy out of life. Seeing relationships that have changed, grown, people who were a part of my life and moved on, new arrivals to the fold who have helped watch and make me who I am.

I used to think that being a good writer was a curse, based on the idea that I don’t always express myself well in person. Part of growing up has been learning to appreciate this gift that I have, and finding ways to work with that strength, and being comfortable enough with myself to share in person. You’d think that being in a job where I meet and see new people every day would make the one-on-one stuff easier, but it’s still a challenge for me. But being in this job has forced me to stretch, and grow, and become comfortable with co-operation and conflict in a closed setting. I think that’s good, developing skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

That thought used to terrify me. But things change, people change, and that’s been another big part of growing up. I don’t enjoy the same things I used to, I’ve learned different things, and I don’t think the same. I’ve watched friends change, grow, get married, move away, drift away and come back. There’s an inevitability to it, some growth, and some sadness, too. An innocence lost, in some ways, especially as it relates to friends.

Some days, I feel like I just walked out of high school, until I look at an old picture of me. We don’t notice the changes in ourselves, gradual as they are, but over time, you can. It’s bracing when I look at him. He’s an interesting guy, the one who left high school. He had more hair, bigger glasses, and was even less sure of himself than I am. He thought he was going to be a programmer. He had a crush, and no idea how to deal with it.

There’s some sadness in the loss of old friends, of old dreams, of youth giving way to a modest amount of experience. But there’s so much that I’ve gained as well, so much I’ve learned. I wouldn’t trade where I am now for anything. I’ve found a contentment that I never had then.

I think back to my visits to campus, remembering my time there, and smirk. I know too much now. I can’t go back. And that’s fine with me.

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