I have spent the better part of the last five hours digging through a footlocker stuffed full of my old paperwork, from junior-high to the middle of Vanderbilt – in short, everything between “hey, girls are interesting” and “subscribe FRIENDSZ”. I generated two huge trash bags and most of a good-sized box, parsing into “keep this” and “trash that,” although half of the stuff to keep should probably actually be trashed. If any of you are Doctor Who fans, I think I may have just finished regenerating.
It’s a very surreal experience, knowing that all this stuff is at least ten years old and probably more like fifteen, but what’s more surreal is the way that I had that big needle-scratch in my mind when the wife came into the room and I realized that it wasn’t actually 1988, or 1993, or…
In high school, you always think you’re all alone, that you’re special and misunderstood and whatever. The really disappointing thing is realizing that you were just exactly like everybody else….
-Dec. 26, 2005
It’s probably for the best. The process of weeding out the cruft of half a life ago (literally, this coming spring, half a life ago) has done some really weird things to my psyche. All I can say is that I am clearly not the man I was, and not just the way that Christopher Eccleston is not Jon Pertwee. If you track back to 1988-90, I have gotten almost everything I ever wanted – granted, it took a hell of a long time, and a lot of what I got was not what I expected, and I have since lost some of what I got, and a couple of the things I just grew out of needing. But for better or worse, here I am. I don’t even have anything I wanted for Christmas and didn’t get.
God willing, maybe this means that some of my thought-processes and reflexes and instincts that were wet-wired back in the dark days of adolescence will go away now, or at least grow up. I’m not counting on it, though…
-Dec. 27, 2005
Two decades in the making, and it starts in less than 8 hours. Tonight, I’ll be seeing the stand-up comedy stylings of one of my fellow alums, and the next day, I’ll be on a plane for Saturday’s 20-year high school reunion dinner.
If you know me, you’ve heard the story a million times – how I was closer to the class the year before me, how I had the blockbuster spring semester my junior year followed by an even more eventful summer, and how my senior year was a letdown because of the distance between me and the rest of my class – but I didn’t care, because college was going to be IT and I didn’t need to worry about high school anymore. And you probably have some idea how that worked out.
I’d like to think that my best days are still ahead of me. Certain persons (Whom I’ll Figure Eventually ;] ) like to occasionally tease me about being one of those guys still coasting off that time his football team in high school won the big game and milking it for the next sixty years. To which I can only plead nolo contendre – I’m not admitting it, but I’m not denying it either. =)
Because college didn’t really work out. Neither did grad school, which basically served as a degree-laundering program while giving me some hands-on experience to let me try to luck my way into my first job in a totally unrelated field. Throughout college and grad school, for the most part, the friends I had were the same guys from that great run in 1987-89, and by the time I’d left grad school, they’d all split town ahead of me.
My life history, when you get right down to it, has been one of leaping from one rock to the next while the ground crumbles behind me shortly after. I left a gaping black hole where higher education used to be. I left Washington, and my old group at work was scattered within a year (with an additional admixture of spouses, offspring, and housing changes to enhance the effect and drive home the point that it would have happened even if I’d stayed). My two previous jobs in California left me with, at best, 4 or 5 combined people with whom I’m only in sporadic touch. One step ahead of the void, always.
And then last year, the previous class had their 20th high school reunion. And although I didn’t even know about it until it happened, the ripples in Facebook caught me – and all of a sudden I started to see names I hadn’t heard in years, think about things that hadn’t occurred to me since that night I dumped all the papers over four and a half years ago now. And that artificial blue stone on that 10-karat white gold ring began to wink at me… I’ve got three class rings. One I never wear, because I’ve disavowed that institution. One I routinely wear, as the world’s most expensive bottle-opener and part of my degree-laundering so I can feel better about myself in a world almost wholly defined by Berkeley on one side and Stanford on the other, and one because I graduated from there and I claim it and it has been with me every day since.
A couple months ago, in a preview of things to come, we had dinner with one of the guys who was part of my crew back in the day. He looked– well, he looked about 2 years older, and dressed like a tech-sector VP on a Silicon Valley fact-finding mission. (Conveniently, it turns out that’s exactly what he was.) And he couldn’t get over how different I looked. Maybe how different I seemed. And I can see how that would happen. The white T-shirts have been replaced with black polo shirts. The Reeboks gave way to black Docs. The (shudder) stonewash has been displaced by plain old standard blue 501s. There’s a goatee now, largely to compensate for the Folliclypse on my actual dome. The gray fedora and the Members Only jackets are long gone. And if I’m honest, I’m a good sixty pounds away from where I was all those years ago. I also have thirteen years in the world of IT on top of two degrees in political science and a world of life experiences on two continents.
But the kid underneath all that? The kid from twenty years ago? The one who urgently needed his four or five guys that had his back 24/7? The one who desperately craved constant validation, everywhere, everything, all the time? The one who’d rather face a firing squad than have to walk up to a crowd of strangers and assert himself? The one who had to be on guard every second of every hour of every day just to ward off the black cloud that would come eat his soul given half a chance? The one who needed to belong worse than he needed air?
Yeah. He never went anywhere. I just pay his taxes.