July 6, 2010

Ten Year Reunion

Ten years ago, I dressed up in a silly looking robe and a flat cardboard had and sat in a stifling gymnasium for a time to commemorate the passing out of high school into some sort of real world. There were 118 of us, if I remember correctly, passing that threshold from members of the class of 2000 to being members of society at large. In the weeks and months leading up to that occasion, we commemorate and memorialized and solidified friendships that would last forever. We lamented each passing last time that an event would happen with a cautious optimism on what the future would hold. Where were you going to school, what would your major in, what job would you work; we all defined a future idea of ourselves as we tried on the clothes of adulthood.

Now, we approach the celebration of the anniversary of that event. Few may remember what was said there. I don’t, and I was one of those with the luxury to speak at the event. Eighteen year olds have little gathered wisdom to impart, and are at an age where they don’t realize this fact. I was guilty of both, but even more culpable because I was aware of neither fact. I for one had it all figured out. I would suppose that on some level we all did. This certainty is one of the amazing but frightening aspects of youth. We can reflect on who we were, who we thought were going to be, and who we are. I bet very few people would see a congruence between those three visions of self. A few lack this chance at reflection, resting below in places unimagined.

I find myself nostalgic for that person of ten years ago that no longer exists but shares my name. I want to go back and give him some tips, but I know two things. The first is that I would be majorly freaked out, if I believed myself at all. The second is that wisdom comes not from the pages of books or the lips of elders but from living life and reflection of events. The turbulence of the last decade was in some was personal, but often interrelated with wider events. I don’t want to over-determine anything, but I feel that I might have gone into physical science much deeper if it was not for the events of September eleventh, 2001. I might have ventured to medical school as the yearbook said was my ambition. I have no way of being exactly certain, but the life I now lead would be different than that one existing in the realm of the never-happened.

I would reject that my life would have been better. I cannot reject nor deny my path. I am largely pleased with it, and I remain bullish on my future potential. I hope that we all can be, and that’s what made me write this. My first reaction on flipping through the 2000 Cougar Tracks is that I am happy we did go to school in a more adventurously fashion epoch. Amongst the embarrassing (and egotistical) proliferation of pictures of me is one where I am posed with my good friend Julie Miker. We had been elected ‘Most Likely to Make a Million,’ and I am obviously pleased with the distinction. I have no idea about the balloting criteria used or the polling method that obtained that result, but I can safely say at this point my peers were mistaken.

If I am not mistaken, the more common phraseology for such a laurel is ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ I have no idea why the yearbook staff uses the highly objective measure of material wealth as a way to gauge success. I can still imagine at the next reunion or the next one after that meeting the burdensome prophecy laid on my shoulders. I may be in a similar position as I am now. What I reject is the criteria: the conflation of monetary accumulation with success.
I have succeeded on many levels. As a teacher, I have challenged and taught and engaged students in diverse subjects. As a writer, I have informed people of the world around them; I have made people laugh and cry and think. As a cook, I have developed effective technique with a flair for the dramatic. As a student, I have put the work in I needed to learn the material. As a friend, I have listened. As a husband, I have loved. I have a roster of successes that I am proud of, and that I will add to as I age. We all do, no matter the turbulence and worries and anxieties that pass. We should not single out individuals for this honor, but we should recognize the most likely to succeed of the class of 2000, and know that it is a group picture.