My 25th high school reunion will be in August, and this has sparked a flurry of new Facebook friends, some of whom I remember well and others who I am not sure who they even are! They change their names, their pictures look different (after all, 25 years is a long time), and so I am modestly reconnecting with a lot of people I haven't seen or heard from since graduation.
In many ways, it feels good to reconnect. I knew some very nice people in high school, and I'm proud to see how well so many have done over the years. Yet, at the same time, it really drives home a point that I have felt a lot: My life choices and maybe my priorities are quite different than most of my old peers.
I am living in a country where there is almost no rule of law, rampant corruption, a very foreign language that I don't speak very well, and a history and culture vastly divergent from the one in Waverly, Iowa, of my youth. My classmates are successful business people, artists, mothers, and fathers. They have full lives. I'm not jealous or anything like that, but I am happy for those who also seem to be happy. It's just that I can't imagine still living in Iowa, working for some software company or a manufacturer or owning a shop in the myriad towns of the state.
And I imagine they look at my life--if they even bother--and wonder what the hell I did to get exiled to someplace like Ukraine. Or maybe they imagine some kind of ex-pat utopia. Of course, Kharkov is neither Siberia or utopia. It is full of people struggling to get by, in difficult circumstances, just like everywhere else. There are really wonderful people here--more wonderful people than I have met in a long time--and of course the bastards and bitches and shallow, selfish individuals that are a part of any society. But one thing is sure: After six months, I feel that my life is more full here than it had been in the states for many years. I'm still trying to sort out why.
So if any of my former classmates read this, know that I miss a good pizza at the OP, I still mourn the loss of the Villager cheeseburgers (and Roy's Place, for that matter), but otherwise, it isn't really so different anywhere.