The anniversary season

April 27, 2004 

I had to replay the message several times before I believed it wasn't a prank. It was from a former classmate, and she said she was coordinating my 10-year high school reunion. The call wasn't unexpected -- it has been, after all, 10 years since I graduated -- but for some reason I always thought I'd be a lot older when it arrived. I'm not sure yet if I'll be able to go, but the looming specter of this milestone has me thinking of all the other anniversaries I'll be celebrating in 2004: two years in our house and jobs, six years in our marriage, seven years in both our cars, eight years, on and off, of living in the Triangle. For two people who claim to like change, we've established quite the numerical track record of constancy. Our habits have become rituals, occasional activities have become the things we always do.

Ten years ago, diploma in hand, finally master of my own destiny, I would have shaken my head with disdain at the idea that I would have turned out this way. After years spent adding points to my running scorecard of interesting life experiences, here I am, back in North Carolina, married, working a nine-to-five job. Nothing I ever wanted.

Yet, for me, the biggest surprise of my recent history is this: I'm not bored yet. For all that sameness, it seems that life is more crowded with possibilities and unfinished business than ever. I have a list of projects at work and at home that I'd like to "get around to someday" that just keeps growing.

As I recently explained to a friend who was shocked that I no longer reserved a closet to store cardboard boxes for my next move, I no longer make the mistake of equating settling down with settling, period. My need to create change for the sake of stirring up some motion and seeing where the dust settles has faded considerably. I'm resisting tinkering with all the things that aren't broken.

My model for such a life? No less than our parents (see high school self cringe), who have always been responsible, but never been dull. There's my father-in-law, who once spent his law school tuition buying up a bunch of antiques -- which he managed to sell for a profit just days before class started. And my mother-in-law, who handles life's curveballs with such finesse that -- I swear -- she would barely blink if you told her you were bringing 40 people to dinner the next night. My own mother has been an entrepreneur since age 20, shouldering the risk of several businesses. And when I was still a tween, my father quit a steady job as a certified public accountant -- work he hated -- to become a truck driver.

I'd like to think that if my satisfaction with my current life soured, I too would have the courage to take some risks and start again on some new adventure. Sure, my heartstrings have now firmly anchored themselves in my spring garden and the nice morning light in the living room and in finally understanding how the Durham downtown loop works. But I'm also certain that, with cause, I could be ruthless in ripping them out, and installing them somewhere else.

Until then, I still have art I need to hang on the walls and bare spaces in the yard that need to be filled in. Several Saturdays ago, we got up way too early and hauled ourselves to the JC Raulston Arboretum's biannual plant sale to stock up on specimens. The woman who tallied our ticket recognized us from the last sale in the fall. She asked us how the plants we bought then were doing.

They're thriving, we told her. And then we loaded the truck with our purchases and headed to breakfast. We went to the place we always go after the plant sale. As usual, it was delicious.

Rebecca Morphis can be reached at rlmorphi@mindspring.com.

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