When You Reconnect with a High School Friend and It’s Like Picking Up Right Where You Left Off

I have no memory of actually meeting William Coulter. He transferred in from Colorado our junior year of high school and it seems we just immediately and effortlessly became friends.

We never even had a class together. But we ended up hanging out together a lot, as teenagers in a small mountain town in Alabama.

I think it started when we went to go see Adam Sandler’s new movie at the time, Big Daddy.

Then William came to some church youth function where the manager of Hardee’s donated hundreds of burgers to feed everyone. Yet still after the event ended, there were dozens of hamburgers left- and because I personally knew the manager, she gave me all the left overs to take home.

So I took two garbage bags full of unwrapped hamburgers to my house that night. William and I decided to make our challenge to eat a minimum of 24 burgers throughout the hours of the night.

We failed. But we ate more for breakfast that next morning.

There was also the time, on a very short notice and a whim, that we went on a road trip to Pensacola, Florida our senior year. Our high school had allotted us a few days to go look at colleges and we hadn’t used them up yet. So we hopped on a van and visited a very conservative college that we had no intentions on attending. (See the picture where he and I were buried in the sand from 1999.)

And thinking back on our adventures driving my parents’ Ford Aerostar minivan, equipped with paintball guns, out on back roads at night, it easily reminds me of the Alan Jackson song, “We got a little crazy but we never got caught…”

Now, we are both married and have two kids who are nearly the same ages. Another coincidence is that his wife’s name is Holly, while my wife and I named our daughter Holly. And our son’s middle name is William.

Last weekend, my dad officially unveiled his new playground, which he has been building for years now. After remembering that William and his family only live a little more than an hour away from my parents’ house, I invited his family over.

My sister’s family was there too; whose children are also in the same age range; a total of three 4 year-olds, two 9 year olds, and one 11 year-old. Our families ended up all being a perfect match, as expected.

William is one of those close friends where we always pick up right where we left off. We get older, along with our hilarious shared memories from high school.

But we relate to each other just as easily now in 2020, as we did in the late 1990s.

My 2019 Year in Review: 5 Things That Defined My Life in the Final Year of the 2010s- Existential Crisis, Jeep Wrangler, 20th High School Reunion…

I only recently realized that we are actually coming to the end of another decade. This decade itself has presented several major milestones for me:

2010: I became a parent for the first time when my son Jack was born.

2011: I turned 30 years old. Parents Magazine chose me as their official daddy blogger- a side gig that was last the next 4 years.

2012: I became the manager of the retention department at my employer at the time, which triggered my fascination with emotional intelligence- especially, the concept that being offended is always a person decision.

2013: My wife and I became debt-free, other than our mortgage.

2014: We started building our new house.

2015: We moved into our brand-new house; having previously owned a town home. I also started my first YouTube channel, which currently has over 8K subscribers and earns me an average of $500 per month.

2016: Four days after my 35th birthday, my daughter was born.

2017: The company I had been working for the past 11 years closed down my branch, starting a 6 month stretch of me being a stay-at-home dad.

2018: I made by television debut on the Lifetime Network show, This Time Next Year. I also got a new job, at a Fortune 500 Company, where I have now worked a year and a half.

As for 2019, there are 5 particular events that come to mind…

1- Existential crisis: Having reached all my major life goals before the age 40, I came to a point where I had to re-evaluate my goals and ambitions.

2- Jeep Wrangler: After owning my Honda Element since 2006, I finally got a new” vehicle- a 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK 6 Speed.

3- 20th Year High School Reunion: My wife and I had a great time with the people I grew up with and graduated with in 1999.

4- Releasing Original Songs: So far, my wife and I have released 4 new original songs together on my YouTube channel. Despite both moving to Nashville to start music careers, we had never publicly performed together.

5- 1st Family Pet: Despite our “no pet” policy in our home, my son wanted a teddy bear hamster for his 9th birthday. Ultimately, the hamster quickly became my pet- or at best, the “family” pet.

Now, with the 2020s ahead of me, I shall enter the decade in which I turn 40 and became of the parent of two teenagers. That ought to be fun.

Our 20th High School Class Reunion: Fort Payne Wildcats Class of 1999

 

We have arrived.

In an age of reboots, sequels, and of course, reunions, the timing was perfect for the Fort Payne High School Class of 1999 to have our 20th reunion!

Back in May of 1999, during the week of our high school graduation, we had our class picnic in our city park. Most of us were just 18 years old and didn’t really know, and couldn’t know, what we wanted to do with our lives.

We hadn’t yet figured out what we were really good at, or bad at, or how we would even earn a living.

But during the course of two decades, it sort of forced us to figure out who we were going to be. At now that we are all pushing 40, our lives are, for the most part, figured out.

If graduating high school was like putting the car in reverse, backing it out of the garage, putting it into first, and determining which of the endless roads we were supposed to start driving down…

Then making it to our 20th high school reunion is like having the car in cruise control.

Granted, for most of us, the road we took was not a straight and easy one. That road had many surprising turns. Often that road turned us right back around in the same direction we had already come from.

But by now, we are ultimately settled in for the rest of the ride. We’re not trying to figure out who we are anymore.

We know now.

So for this class reunion in particular, it was especially a milestone. For the first time, we were catching up with the grown up doppelganger versions of each other.

I also realized by attending my 20th high school reunion, that I was fortunate to grow up with a particularly special group of people, at a special time, in a special place.

We were born in 1980 and 1981; during the start of our town’s economic boom, as Fort Payne, Alabama became “The Official Sock Capital of the World”; thanks to our town’s massive hosiery production.

Not to mention, the country group Alabama had just become living legends… and they just happen to be from our little town, located in the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains.

It was magical time and place to grow up. We are a close group of people.

Our class reunions are a really big deal to us and I am confident they always will be.

-Nick Shell

The Search for Wisdom, Truth, and Meaning Ends with Life’s Responsibilities; Including Marriage, Children, and a Mortgage (Or, “I Used to Be a Lot More Fun, Yet Self-Centered and Emotionally Needy”)

As my 20th high school reunion is coming up in less than a year, I think it’s funny how certain people probably remember me as a person I no longer am; for better or worse.

Sure, I used to be a lot more fun back before I was so well immersed in all my current responsibilities. But I also know for a fact that I used to let a lot of things bother me that I no longer do.

One of the least favorite years of my life was when I was 20 years old, back in 2001. And no, it wasn’t necessarily because that was the year of the September 11th attacks. It was because, at the time, my identity as an adult was still forming.

I was finishing up community college, before transferring to Liberty University where I would get my English degree. I had a part-time job as the supervisor of an after-school program. I was a Junior High Sunday School teacher and youth leader at my hometown church. And I was single.

Back then, I was still on a noble quest for things like wisdom, truth, and meaning in life.

Fast forward to present day: I’m 37, I have been married for 10 years (as of next Thursday), I have 2 kids, and I have a full time office job in the Nashville area; in addition to my 4 side hustle jobs that also generate income (this blog, doing SEO for a major university, and 2 YouTube channels).

My wife and I are on a passionate mission to pay off our mortgage early, as we’ve been otherwise debt-free for many years now; including no car payments. We are very inspired to outsmart the system of having to work our entire adult lives just to pay interest to the bank for our home loan.

That’s where I’m at in life.

So honestly, I can’t remember the last time I thought about searching for wisdom, truth, or meaning. I don’t need to.

By default, I get my daily share of wisdom, truth, and meaning through all of my many responsibilities in life; as a married father of 2, with a total of 5 income-generating jobs.

It may seem a bit anticlimactic or unromantic, but responsibility is the answer to trying to find wisdom, truth, and meaning.