"You FAILED your perception roll?"

(forget the grammatical errors. I know they're here. A preposition is a bad thing to end a sentence with. And a conjunction should never start a sentence. But it's effective, because, for better or worse, it's how people talk. And dammit, there is BREW in February!!! PRONOUNCE THE DAMNED 'R'!

anyway...) Wow.

I had the fortune of connecting with not one, not two, but three people from my deep dark distant past (also known as "High School") in just the last week. Not bad!

One is now a sportswriter for a paper in Florida; one is a computer person somewhere in Sacramento (I need to pay him a visit before I move).

And one is an old ember. Could have said "flame" except that I didn't. In retrospect, she's probably one of the sweetest people I've ever met. In further retrospect, I was a compleat idiot.

Which brings us to the topic of my post.

Yes, I failed my perception roll. 24 years ago.

I'm not exactly in disbelief, here. Come on -- those of you who know me well enough, you know that I have a propensity for doing things the hard way, whether by accident or design.

This post is going to ramble for a bit, because upon reconnecting with said ember (read: friendly potential flame except I wasn't paying attention), I have found her mother has died recently and unexpectedly and has left her pretty well devastated (I'm sure she'll send me a correction if I happen to have this wrong, but I don't think I do).

(And yes, I expect she'll show up and read this whole silly archive -- hopefully she'll find some of it humorous, some insightful, and like that).

So I offered her the lame insight of someone who has not yet lost a close family member (thumps head); namely: Are you happy with where YOU are, in spite of recent circumstances? That's all that matters. (Okay, it was more drawn out, but that's the upshot of it.)

My mind has boggled. She sent me an invite to her wedding a long time ago, and I never responded. Not because I was ever bitter (never was), but because I couldn't keep myself organised enough to do anything about it. I still have to send out Thank Yous for the wedding I had almost nine months ago, and I haven't even posted the pictures from the event!

But I digress.

Time passed, and I lost her address, and couldn't find her on the web, and couldn't seem to find her ANYwhere for long until I visited one of those School Reunion sites and found her. I sent a mail, fully expecting it to drop into the ether.

Imagine my surprise when I got a response.

Now this is 23 years after the last time I remember seeing her in person -- she's happily married for 20 years now (found her sweetheart in college), and I'm finally in a fairly good spot in my life (after much wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth, my 20-year roller coaster ride is coming to a spot where I can jump off without too much ado), so spending too much time on what could have been is a waste of time.

Still, when the light dawns, it's hard not to look at what was there and mutter to oneself, "Self, you are such an idiot."

The light kind of dawned for me when I went trolling through my box of memories and found a letter which had been included with the gift of Issue #13 of ElfQuest (don't. I stopped following ElfQuest pretty much when the first run of Black-And-Whites came to an end. I'm still waiting for the movie, but I'm not holding my breath at this point. A discussion of the effect it had on my life is reserved for a later discussion).

Such is life.

I take comfort in the fact that, 20 years ago, I was a hothead, prone to argument, debate and bursts of temper. This doesn't happen so much anymore, but really? I haven't changed much. I wonder if I would have turned out any differently with different influences in my life, or if I'm just doomed to be a victim of my own foolish will. So my solace is telling myself "there's no way it would have worked out anyway."

But the fact remains that I wasn't paying attention. I used to lament that nobody ever knew I existed for the longest time.

I cannot shake the gut feeling that, even then, I was wrong.

Missed opportunity, or alternate path? How do you tell? I would not have had the opportunities that I have now. I'd be someplace different. Where? I don't know. Do I have regrets? I'll just say, stoically, that it's difficult to truly regret what might have just been a different path to the same endpoint. If I could change up the journey altogether, maybe, but I think I'm here because I'm supposed to be here. I'm supposed to learn a lesson.

I think the lesson is to pay attentOOOOHHHH! SOMETHING SHINY!

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