If you would have told me 18 years ago that today I would be sitting in an quiet house in Texas listening to Patti Griffin on repeat, I would have snorted, called you full of crap and grabbed another drink and stared at the one next to me in hidden amazement. Or drunkenness. Your pick.

If you would have told me that at 12:20am on a Thursday night, I’d be reviewing endless log files from an exchange partner looking for a microscopic discrepancy, I would have shook my head and quickly corrected you. I think at that point, I was positive that I was surely poised for greatness in the hotel world.

If you would have told me 18 years ago tonight, that this life, this very life that I’m living today was going to be the life I would lead, I probably would have run screaming the other way.

As most young, dumb things do, I had big ideas. I had plans, I had goals, I had a big ass strategic plan glued together with cheap vodka, marlboro light containers and the beginnings of a crush that would last for a minute (or longer). I was going to do the school thing, get the husband, have three babies by the time I was 30. I was going to have a perfectly lovely home. I had most of it figured out. Or at least, that night, 18 years ago, I did.

Tonight, I sit in this absolutely silent house ( except for Patti Griffin on repeat) . The black dog is passed out cold.  I wound up work a few minutes ago. I did what I could do today for the volunteer thing. My house is perfectly clean . My laundry is folded, hung and organized. My fridge is filled with various foodstuffs, but mostly overrun with wine and mixers.

I used to cook. I used to cook for anyone that would let me slide a plate in front of them. I would host Sunday funday feasts. I would cajole people to come over to my house so I could try out new recipes. I dedicated 6 months of my life perfecting a turkey recipe. I made food like some people write words. It was my muse, my art, my happy. These days, I cook only when absolutely necessary. I stopped hosting brunches a while ago, because it was no longer fun. To type the words that cooking is no longer fun is borderline appalling to me. I literally can’t remember the last time I baked a loaf of bread. Times change. Passions change. Interests change.

(Hit repeat again on Patti Griffin)

20 years ago this weekend I graduated high school. Holy shit, that seems like such a long time ago. Literally a lifetime ago. I would sit in that northern Michigan town and dream about what I was going to do when I got out. Got away from the woods. Never did I imagine that this would be what it is.

18 years ago, I was living on a small island in the middle of nowhere having the time of my life. The people I met that summer changed the course of my life forever.

“This” life isn’t what I expected, nor is it unappreciated. Somewhere along the way, I just deviated far, far far from the plan that I thought was going to be executing.

These days, I live far away from that Northern town. I do NOT have a fabulous career in hotel management, however, I do have a pretty bad ass job, if you squint, cock your head, and take a shot of something boozy. I have a most magnificent circle of humans (and four leggeds) that are with me today (and some of them 18 years ago), and most importantly, this is the life that I chose. It took me a while to understand that this is what it is supposed to be, for now.

I look back at the young girl that had such big ideas. Such sure concepts of how life was going to turn out. I want to just high five her and say “enjoy the ride sister, it ain’t what you are going to expect.”

I think about the kids graduating this weekend and wish them genuinely the best. I hope that the have big plans and I hope that they learn to be flexible.

I hope that they realize that sometimes, despite wanting the perfect picture, life doesn’t quite work out the way that you imagined. That the perfectly planned life is most likely going to deviate and kick you in the ass at some point. That girl 20 years ago is going to see and do things she never imagined and end up in a place that she had no idea she wanted to be. She was just being present and living in the moment. And that is, was and always will be, a good thing. The girl 18 years ago is going to come into her own, grow up and realize that sometimes you just need to look to the future and figure out what is next…