A self-proclaimed nerd's journey,
15 years later - Jason A. Smith

As I considered what to write about this week, I looked at the calendar on my desk, and realized something.

This column will appear in the newspaper on the 15th anniversary of my high-school graduation.

This one snuck up on me, I must say. I had been thinking so much about my second wedding anniversary, which occurred Monday, that I didn't have a lot of time to get nostalgic about my teen years.

Now, I can't help taking a trip down memory lane, not just as it relates to high school, but also everything that's happened in my life since then.

When I was in high school, I was the personification of the word "nerd," complete with really ugly glasses, and a woefully skinny frame. I was horrible at sports, and worse with the ladies.

I didn't have the most up-to-date wardrobe, and I got along better with my teachers than I did with my fellow students.

As a teenager, I was pretty much afraid of everything and everybody. I craved acceptance more than anything, and my life revolved around what others thought about me.

The result was that I missed out on a lot of great opportunities, because I didn't want to be laughed at for anything in which I expressed an interest.

After high school, I eventually found my way to college, and discovered journalism. That career has allowed me to develop a voice I never knew I had, when I was that scared, skinny, little kid. In the process of developing that voice, I also became more comfortable in my own skin.

In addition, my chosen career path has enabled me to see God's hand in my life, in a powerful way. I found the woman who would later become my wife, while working as an editor for a newspaper in college. I've also developed close friendships with people in that field along the way.

And yes, some of them were my teachers, once upon a time.

On a personal level, my life has changed dramatically from what it was at the time I went to my 10-year reunion in 2003. Back then, I was single, waiting tables, living with my parents, and taking the scenic route through college.

Today, I'm a married reporter for a newspaper, living in an area that, like myself, is growing and changing on a daily basis.

I still wear glasses, though they're not as big as they used to be. I'm not as skinny as I once was, but my physique is hardly an impressive one.

I'm worse at sports than I've ever been, and my wardrobe could still probably use a makeover.

But, there is one important distinction from who I was in high school, and who I am now.

I'm not as scared as I used to be.

In the last 15 years, I've learned a lot about myself and my abilities. I've found that the criticisms I perceived from others, probably originated within my own mind. As such, they don't have to stay there.

I've realized that the opinions of others don't have to be my reality, unless I allow that to happen.

As for what the next 15 years will hold, I have no idea. I should probably sit down soon, and make a list of goals I want to achieve for myself by the time I'm nearing 50.

But, as I make that list, I'm more aware of two important things. I know what I'm capable of, and I know God is still in control.

What do I have to be afraid of?

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161, or via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.