The Fellowship of the Ring

So my class ring – the one from grad school, the one I claim, the one that let me down in the first round dammit – is kind of dinged up. I can live with the scratches and dulling, but a good bit of the black enamel on the signet has worn away. And it’s apparently under a lifetime warranty, so I will be able to get it refreshed to good as new with no more than the cost of shipping (and insurance obvs). Only problem is…this leaves me with no way to open beer bottles. (I don’t have the strength in the off hand to use my wedding band. Nor am I willing to switch to twist-offs.) Since there’s exactly zero chance of putting on my undergrad ring (I’m amazed I haven’t thrown it into Mount Doom), that means that I have reverted to….my high school ring.

When I went to pull it out of the humidor last week – where it sits along with my old badge from my first job, my dad’s hunting club patch, the original key to my old Saturn, and some of the other stuff that I’d have to grab first if fleeing a house fire – I was oddly reminded of a commercial that ended, “What did you want to be?”

A good question. When I received the ring, I had a notion of what my career path would be like. It deviated within two years, obviously – and for the last decade, it hasn’t been within screaming distance of what I originally expected. But that goes back to the notion that you can’t define yourself by your job – so I looked at what the rest of my life looks like since then. Let’s see: I drive a car that has a sunroof, a good stereo, and well under a hundred thousand miles. And my Walkman has been replaced with something even smaller that holds more songs than I owned on every tape and CD put together at the end of the 80s – and plays movies, makes phone calls, and gets on the Internet almost anywhere. (The what? Trust me, kid, you’ll love it.) I actually have a computer at home. More than one. Macs, at that. If I want to keep the fridge full of Dr Pepper, I can. I own all three Indiana Jones movies and all six (SIX!? Well, yeah…you’ll find out. Just deal) Star Wars movies. There’s ice and water in the fridge door and a disposal in the sink, and the hot water lasts longer than fifteen minutes, and there’s not a parent of mine for 2000 miles in any direction.

And I have friends and comrades and contacts all over America, and I’ve been there. Irish bar in DC, bagel place in Manhattan, fajitas in Nashville, drinks on the parade route in New Orleans, steakhouse overlooking Highway 1 by the Pacific Ocean, a go-to winery in the Napa Valley. I’ve been to the World Series, Mardi Gras, and the Stanley Cup playoffs. I’ve seen major league baseball in 8 different stadiums and owned season tickets for a top-10 college football team. I’ve had three jobs with three different household names. I’ve been a godfather, a University Graduate Fellow, and I’ve been in three weddings – including my own. Yes, I have a girlfriend, who is pretty much everything I would have asked for back then, and who happens to be married to me. And our honeymoon was on another continent.

Half a life ago, the Devil himself could have shown all this to the younger me, and said “for the low low price of one soul, all this can be yours.” And I would have said “Okay.” Without hesitation.

In every way that actually matters, I am who I wanted to be. And it’s a good thing I pulled this ring out, because I need to remember that.

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