Rip Van Crinkle in Time…What If I Had to Account to My Younger Self for the Past 20 Years?


Amazing. I can’t begin to fathom what Terry Wallis, 42, is enduring this week. Twenty years ago, he was in a severe auto accident that left him in a virtual coma until three days ago when his brain…apparently rewired and ready for near normal function once more…woke up.

He is slowly learning to talk again…and, boy, will he have lots to talk about. One report said that, upon waking, Wallis believed Ronald Reagan was still president.

Lots. To. Talk. About.

This got me to thinking…if Wallis thinks Reagan is president…does Wallis think of himself as a 22-year-old man? What will he make of the changes in the world…and in himself…that, for him, happened virtually overnight?

According to Wikipedia…1986 was quite a year. The world welcomed newborns Mischa Barton, Lindsay Lohan, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. I remember being home sick from school and watching the live telecast of the Challenger explosion. I remember this guy, Oliver North, but couldn’t tell you what the Iran-Contra Affair was or what he had to do with it. I remember hearing about the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploding…I still fear that today. Also in 1986, the world said goodbye to icon Donna Reed, scientologist found L. Ron Hubbard, artist Georgia O’Keefe, musician extraordinaire Benny Goodman, and the dashing Cary Grant.

But mostly what I remember about 1986 was what any self-centered 16-year-old would remember…myself and my own little microcosm.

I was dating a hot football player…Eric Landrum. I had just gotten my driver’s license. I wore my Guess jeans and Huarache sandals as often as I could. I was obsessed with how I looked. I was involved in more extra-curricular activities than I would even have enough energy to list now. And I had never…not once…had my heart truly broken. They were good days.

But if that 16-year-old Shelley were to suddenly wake up and realize she was now this 36-year-old Shelley…what would she think? Would she be happy with how she turned out?

I would hope so.

Okay, so I’m not married with three kids. And I don’t live in a mansion on the beach. And I’m not thin. And I couldn’t give two craps in a handbag about fashion now. And my extra-curricular activities consist of blogging, American Idol, writing, music, and reading…with occasional side ventures into jewelry making, sewing, and crocheting.

Cripes…forget 16-year-old Shelley…I’m depressing even 36-year-old Shelley now.

Just kidding.

I think my life is pretty good. I mean it’s not what I thought it would be…but whose ever is?

Yeah, 16-year-old Shelley would probably want to kick my ass and demand a do-over. She would want to know what the hell went wrong…why I had made the choices I’d made. She’d want to know what possessed me to let go of my dreams of wearing a size 6, marrying a lawyer, and having a garden.

I guess I’d have to sit her down and explain exactly how 20 years work.

They happen one year…one day…one decision…at a time and, as different as my life is from the one I thought I would have, I would probably still make all the same decisions and dumb mistakes all over again if given the chance. Afterall, it’s not really the decisions that matter…it’s what you learn in the process of making the decisions and what you learn in the process of accepting the outcomes from your decisions.

Plus, 20 years gone doesn’t mean that I don’t still want to wear a size 6…it’s just not as important to me anymore (so I’ve uped it to a size 8).

And I do still want to be married…of course I do, but I know that God just must not have that in His plan for me right now. Plus 20 years has taught me that I don’t always know what’s best for me when it comes to men…I’ve dated pre-law and pre-med…and I’ve learned that maybe I should lean more toward blue-collar.

And children? Well, yes, I would love to have children…but I cannot force what isn’t ready to happen and I know I need to mature more before I’m ready to raise my own kiddos. So, for now, I revel in my two beautiful nieces, Lily, 5, and Sarah, 2, and my youngest brother, Cooper, 15.

Not being what I thought I would be does get to me at times, but finding peace in who I am is so much more rewarding. So what if I don’t have a mansion on the beach or wear designer clothes? I have something now that I never considered when I was 16…I have a deeper sense of self…a stronger appreciation for my talents and gifts…a greater faith in my own strength as an idividual…and an overwhelming realization of my own fortitude and capacity for patience.

But, you know, maybe I ought to rethink having that garden…that really does sound like fun.

Sidenote: This entry is meant in no disrepect for Terry Wallis and all the struggles he faces. I realize he never had the chance to make decisions about his life over the past 20 years…and I do not mean to be cavalier in relating the past 20 years of my life to Wallis’ situation. I am thankful for his story, as it directed me toward some much needed introspection.


6 Responses to “Rip Van Crinkle in Time…What If I Had to Account to My Younger Self for the Past 20 Years?”

  1. Bamaborntxbred Says:

    Awesome post! I am always in my head about the past. It’s one of my biggest flaws. What if this?? What if that?? I am dissatisfied and satisfied at the same time. Weird. I’ve made very few “BIG” mistakes…yet, I’ve lived with such fear and trembling…I feel I’ve barely lived. If I could, I would go back and really truly LIVE.

    Damn! Deep thoughts! Haha!

  2. Quossum Says:

    I really enjoyed this entry, too.

    Fortunately, even as a youngster I wasn’t one of those girls who was already planning her “perfect wedding,” complete with description of groom. In fact, I had only the most nebulous expectations of my future, vaguely entertaining thoughts of acting, writing, training dolphins, maybe getting married someday. (I did assume it would be to geeky classmate Jay. *That* didn’t happen.)

    There are still an awful lot of things to do that I haven’t yet done…guess I’d better get crackin’ on ’em. Because *now* is the only time we really control, isn’t it?


  3. suzi-q Says:

    Shell, such an appreciation for life and for the choices you were given and made, enjoyed the points made but enjoyed even more the open future you have given yourself
    for that is the greatest reward any
    of use could give ourselves.

  4. NOLAgirl Says:

    I think this is a topic that everyone can relate to in one way or the other. I am “young” and still have days where, in a panic, I think “what am I doing?? I am wasting my life away!!!” I am not, of course, and I have it pretty good considering many others in this world, but in my world, in that moment, it can almost take your breath away.

  5. double d Says:

    No-one will probably ever read this but…

    Like the song says, “Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

    20 years…hmmm. That would be a 21 year old Double D, ‘cept wasn’t DD then. DS from DV, then. Nearing a first divorce and falling in real love for the first time.

    I guess since I’m a little older, so the last 20 years for me are not of regret, but of poignant reflection….Real love/marriage, career success, motherhood (all kinds), and experiencing three very different Southern cities. Lots of good stuff, some very bad…but all shaped my life…my life — a decent one, I think.

    I have learned over this half of my life that you got to “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'” as Red said in The Shawshank Redemption. Now, with near mid-life sinking in, that quote (and the initial one)is very vivid in my conciousness. You’ve got to live each moment for the moment and not worry so much about what you’ll think of it later. I’ve got to get busy…

  6. TALK! Says:

    Great post, Double D. (See…someone DID read it!)

    And I love the quote from Shawshank (one of my all-time favorite movies).

    Thanks for the reflection. 😉

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