Archive for August 2008

August 30th, 2008

Past Mistakes

I didn’t notice it at the time, but now I realize that the first half of 2008 came and went without a word about it. I assumed that’s when they’d try to contact me: either well before or right around the exact day, 10 years later.

Of course I honestly believed that they wouldn’t get to me, as I haven’t kept up with anyone, least of all the “right people” for this sort of thing.

Only I knew that they’d get to me, because of Facebook and MySpace — tools that I just know allowed the reunion committee to locate (based on the relatively small number of “MIA” alumni listed) 90% of my graduating class. This was no small feat considering the high school I went to was massive. Not only was it impossible to be acquainted with everyone in the senior class, but there were people in caps and gowns at my graduation that I didn’t recognize at all from the previous four years. It was the perfect place if you wanted to be as close to nonexistent as possible. Which I basically did.

Nonetheless I received a very enthusiastic, nostalgia-envoking invitation to my 10-year high school reunion from two people I’ve never met who were, apparently, classmates of mine. Thus, I was forced to think about who I was back then.

The “jock?” Far from it, as I didn’t play a single sport. The “nerd?” Nope. I did well enough in my classes not catch hell from any teachers, but didn’t do well enough to stand out. The “criminal?” Again, no way did I want the sheer level of recognition one gets as a “problem kid.” The “basketcase?” Within the confines of my own brain: pretty much. But not on the surface. The “queen?” (Hold on, The Breakfast Club! Allow me to amend your stereotypes for my own purposes.) The “king?” Not a chance. I did not appear in any school plays, do anything with student government, or, despite a burgeoning interest in music, play in the marching, concert, or jazz bands. I wasn’t in the “public eye” nearly enough for that role. I was as friendly as I needed to be to not have to eat lunch by myself, and that was it. I stayed away from everything because I felt like I didn’t fit in…and I felt like I didn’t fit in because I stayed away from everything. This dilemma was not beyond my grasp, but I could barely absorb the random ridicule I received as a wallflower. And all I could see was that being recognized for something only meant a potential increase in the amount I was picked on.

If I could travel back in time and tell myself the things that would have made the high school experience more fulfilling for me, just before I started, this is what I’d tell shy, scrawny ninth-grade me:

“Don’t be afraid to give things a try, even if you think you won’t be good at them. You’ll probably do better than you thought. Even if you do just ended up looking stupid: every time you make yourself jump into something that’s scary and unknown, you gain a little courage and it gets easier to try the next new thing that comes along. People admire those that ‘put themselves out there.’ Even the people that will make fun of you will probably respect you more than you think.”

Except that’s not what I’d tell shy, scrawny ninth-grade me at all. Everyone tries to impart this conventional wisdom on you as you start high school, but it’s impossible to understand until you discover it yourself. Instead I’d probably just say:

“Look, this going to suck. Keep your head down. Get through it. Before you know it this place will be a speck in the rear view mirror. And you won’t ever have to go back. Oh, and go to ECU to study fine art, even though everyone will tell you there’s no way to benefit from it financially. Four-and-a-half years from now, things are going to start looking up.”

Were there a reunion for the “Class of ‘02” from ECU’s School of Art, I’d be the one organizing the raffle and collecting and enlarging the pictures of the really popular kids and placing them at the main entrance. It turns out, in art school, socially-awkward outcasts can develop the ability to form, indeed cherish, relationships with other human beings (who were most likely socially-awkward outcasts themselves). They might even become keystones in a social arch or two. I did. Between my wife and I there are the photographs of groups of jovial young people — with yours truly, front-and-center — to prove it! Yes, those were the days.

Only maybe they weren’t. I recently read somewhere1 that every time we remember something our brain actually reconstructs that place or event as if it is taking it in for the first time. And with each reconstruction the chance that our brain is jumbling or deleting information is exponentially increased. Combine that with the mind-bending circumstances that serve as the setting for most college memories in the first place, and, well, I think I may be recalling “those days” through some seriously Vaseline-smeared lenses.

There is no more damning evidence for this than the candid video footage we own of “those days.” On a whim, Steph and I recently decided to watch the home movie, which was shot by our friend Ashley and features a 12–15 person cast, most of whom were major players on the set of “those days.” It was the first time Steph and I had viewed this since shortly after it was made. It was early fall and the beginning of my last semester of college, and we are having a cookout at my roommate Kymia and I’s apartment. And starting at about 00:00:30, long-forgotten and highly unsavory layers to every person and combination of persons documented — layers our still cameras did not detected, much less preserve — practically leap out of the QuickTime window. Someone is clearly jealous of someone else. Or desperately attracted to them. Or completely disinterested in them. Or really angry at them. We all seem tired. Malnourished. Tense. It was difficult for Steph and I to watch.

So, looking at the inverse, maybe high school wasn’t as bad as I describe? Maybe I wasn’t such a pathetic nobody? Now I almost feel that I need to find out. Imagine what I could learn about my memory, about how I’ll look back on what I’m experiencing now and what I’ll experience in years to come! Imagine what I could learn about myself!! Yep, I think I’m actually going to go to my 10-year high school reunion!!!

Except there’s no way I am going to my 10-year high school reunion. I kept my head down. I got through it. I don’t ever have to go back.

1 Issue of Women’s Health that was accidentally delivered to us and I ended up reading from cover-to-cover.

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August 18th, 2008

Change I’m Not Believin’

It’s been a solid 18 days since I last posted, which is (or at least used to be) an unusually long amount of time for me. Those of you who already own a home probably could have predicted my latest lapse in blogging, as you understand that a home, especially when it is new-to-you, lays claim to vast amounts of your time and attention. Those of you who rent may understand that a home, especially when it is new-to-you, lays claim to vast amounts of your time and attention, in a comfortably theoretical way, and therefore you may believe that you could have predicted my latest lapse in blogging, but there’s just no way. We turned in the keys to our old place six short days ago, and the lingering apartment-dweller within me is unable to grasp why I haven’t been making blog entries daily about all the wacky stuff going on at the house I just bought.

I haven’t been making said entries, residual renter, because there is work be done! Walls to paint! Boxes to unpack! Cabinet doors to remove! Fingers to bandage! Trips to the hardware store to make! Whew, I need to sit down for minute…. Furniture dearth to discover! Trips to Target to make! Chairs to assemble! Power outlets to change! Sparks to dodge! Circuit breakers to recheck! Floors to scrub! More trips to Target to make! More trips to the hardware store to make! Trips back to the hardware store to make! Receipts to try desperately to find! Tears to pretend not to cry!

We’ll get to this kind of thing, though. Today I have to tell you about the final piece in the “making my life different than it was” trifecta. While I didn’t mention getting the dog beforehand because it happened so quickly, and I didn’t mention buying the house beforehand out of superstitious fear, item number three has been building-up to its start date in such a slow and secretive manner, it didn’t seem like it was really happening until this morning.

Today was Steph’s first day of school. She is now a full-time grad student at UNC’s School of Information Science, earning her Master’s Degree in Library Science.

Though she found out she was accepted a year ago, and I told everyone I know about it, I now realize I never bragged about reported on bragged about Steph’s impressive achievement here. Steph worked hard for her admission to UNC — the #1 college in the nation at which to earn an MLS degree — putting in a first round of grad school applications two years ago, making us think we were moving to Austin so she could go to library school there, taking two “a la carte” classes at UNC’s SILS, frantically studying up for the math portion of the GREs before she took them again, and putting in a second (and more successful) round of grad school applications, all while holding down her full-time job and maintaining the requisite post-art-school regiment of being frustrated by attempts to create new art at least once a week.

As I do not earn enough at my high-powered, entry-level state job to make mortgage payments; keep the lights on; keep food on the table; and purchase the research materials, tickets to foreign film festivals, and ivory tower polish a grad student requires, Steph also starts a part-time position at NC State’s Design Library (where she’s worked full-time for the past four years) this week which involves her working some nights and weekends, which brings us to how this directly affects me: I’m not going to see my wife as much as I used to. And when I do she’s probably going to have books to read and papers to write. This is sort of a downer, as I went the conventional route vis-à-vis marriage and found someone I enjoy spending time with.

Also, with the woman staying busy, I’ll be taking on a larger part of the house- and dog-related responsibilities. Regardless, I’m excited for where this new opportunity will take Steph and, as I now have a parasitic grip on her, me!

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