My 20 year high school reunion is coming up sometime next year, and it has me feeling curious. Where did everyone I knew in high school end up? What has everyone been doing for the last 20 years? I'm in touch with a few people I knew during those days, but there are lot of folks from high school and college that I lost track of during the 1990's.
Fortunately, Google comes to the rescue.
I've been doing some looking around and actually located a few people I remember from high school. So far, I've found a surgeon teaching at Penn, an astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Lab, an artist who has been shown in San Francisco, New York, London, and Paris (though not solo... yet), a working comic book artist in NYC, a law partner in St. Louis, musicians who've toured with Dicky Betts, Chick Corea, and Maynard Furguson (as well as appearing on the Sex In The City soundtrack), a fitness center manager who got Paris and Nicole fired from one of their "jobs" on The Simple Life, a Fullbright scholar, an ad producer and record company publicist, a succesful interior decorator in the NYC area... the list goes on. It's a wonderful list, except for the fact that it underlines how few of best and brightest from the Land Of My Birth actually ended up staying in the area.
This search has also caused me to reflect about the last 20 years to a certain extent. The first that occurs to me when I see this list is how little I knew about the people around me in high school. I wonder if some of that is self-centeredness... I was 10th in my high school class, and while dreadfully insecure about some things, I was also a bit of a pedant about others. Some people who I would have discounted as being marginal students in those days have actually turned out to lead very interesting lives. I should know better than anyone that sometimes it takes a little more time and the right circumstance for someone to bloom. Maybe high school wasn't their time yet... or maybe we were just all too busy trying to figure out who we were to be completely in touch with the hopes and dreams of others.
Seeing the accomplishments of others, I also begin to wonder about the word success and how it applies to my life. My criteria for success have always been a bit fuzzy -- a satisfying job, good relationships with other people, and the ability to enjoy some of life's pleasures have been more important to me that position, title, or influence. Yet there is some part of me that is competitive... and that part looks at being in the lower half of the graduating class of a top tier University (though I would have probably graduated cum laude if community college grades counted toward my GPA), a fairly unspectacular Ph.D. from a respectable second-tier that took nine years (thanks to a little mistake that cost me my first attempt at a dissertation), and working in an a mid-grade engineering position at a large, well known software company. I'm still using some of the same furniture I bought as a graduate student 13 years ago (including the desk where I am writing this...) indicating that material success beyond a certain level still eludes me. It's been a good 20 years, and a fun 20 years in most respects... but is that enough?
I need to shrug that last thought off. Of course it is enough... I wouldn't be happy with my life if that weren't true. I made the choices I did during the last 20 years for reasons that were perfectly valid at the time. I have no real regrets... except possibly one: couldn't I have gotten to know all the interesting people my friends, acquaintances, and classmates turned out to be over the years? That would be a beautiful thing indeed.
on 2006-08-20 at 9:58 p.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond