Throughout my life, I've been a trendsetter. But I don't mean that in a cocky way or in the traditional sense. People don't follow my fashion trends (thank goodness), or my every move for that matter (again, thank goodness), but for whatever reason in life, among my family and closest group of friends, I've done things first.
I suppose it all started when I was the firstborn child of my parents. I got all the attention for almost two years until my only brother was born, I went to school first, learned to drive first, graduated first, went to college first (those FAFSA forms were probably a whole lot easier for my brother!), etc.
It's been kind of fun. In many ways there wasn't a lot of precedent for what I did. That extended into my circle of friends, too.
Attending the small Copper Country Christian School and being the only one in my grade - yes, seriously, and hey, I was automatically valedictorian! - most of my friends were younger. I was the first to drive and get a car. I can't tell you the number of times I packed friends into the backseat of that 2000 Ford Taurus to drive around the Copper Country, but that was a blast.
Then everyone else started driving and getting cars.
My friends asked me what college was like, then they started graduating high school themselves.
My friends asked me what the real world is like, now they're graduating college or moving on into the military.
After I got married in 2009, my friends asked me what married life is like, and now they're all joining the ranks.
In fact this summer has been crazy in that regard. One of the groomsmen from my wedding, my great friend Mitchell, got married in March. One of the bridesmaids in my wedding, Diana, got married in May. Now another of my groomsman, John, is getting married in October.
For me, it's always been strange being the first one to do something and then watch all my friends go through that same experience. Now, we're finally all settling on the same plane kind of.
But it's even stranger now that the tide seems to be turning the other direction. I guess I subconsciously thought I'd always kind of do things first (and probably mess up so my friends could learn from it), but now my friends are slowly starting to move away before me.
Mitchell lives in Rhode Island. Diana lives in South Carolina. John lives in North Carolina - and that's just a few and I'm still in Michigan, where I've lived my entire life.
It's a beautiful area, and I've loved my time in the U.P., but it's more bizarre than I thought it would be to watch others do things first. I have engineer friends from Tech raking in the money and spreading out all over the country and world. I now know someone in each branch of the military, faithfully serving elsewhere so I can live here safely.
With so many of my friends leaving the area, and my wife wanting to, a big part of me craves to see what else is out there. But, throughout all this I've been learning contentment.
The Bible, which is the foundation for my beliefs, says to be content with what I have, but it's not easy.
I'm a very ambitious person. I know there's nothing wrong with setting goals and working hard to achieve them, but doing so at all costs is wrong. I'm starting to learn what that balance looks like, and in everything, I'm trying to be content.
Maybe I can start a trend with that, too?
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.