Bad. It feels bad, alright?
As I walked through the aisles of a local mall (an old high school haunt), I heard my name being squealed out above the speaker muzak. When I looked up, there stood across from me, an old high-school chum that I had only remembered because of a very funny incident which took place eons ago and which has stamped this person into my memory as “The Pencil Girl”. For the sake of not writing this out more than once, I’ll just refer to this person henceforth in this blog entry as “TPG”.
I didn’t get that weird sinking feeling I normally get when I run into a familiar face. I think that I was genuinely happy to be noticed by someone all these years after graduating (Class of ’91, thank you). My face must’ve lit up as I walked toward TPG and she seemed to feel the same thing, gushing openly at the recognition. This relative good feeling would quickly be staunched though. You see, for some reason, this person decided to do that thing that ANNOYS ME MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. But more on that in a minute…
First let me say that I’d forgotten how much I hated high school. It was small and elitist and had a way of making me feel inadequate for no apparent reason. As this person initiated a conversation that involved every one of her old clique’s accomplishments (in alphabetical order), I soon remembered. The cloud descended on my person: starting from my feet, through my limbs, and up to my face which must have reflected a combination of both disgust and irritation. TPG opened up the can of worms I’d left closed for years. There was a reason I’d left them closed.
Blahbitty, Blah is a lawyer. Yukkity Yuk is a doctor. The list went on and on. I listened as TPG was good enough to round up the memories of egos past, reciting verbatim all of her friends and their equally brilliant lives. She was meticulously careful to omit her own, however. After her first strike flood of nonstop triumphs, I couldn’t take it anymore. Interrupting her I said finally, “What about you?” What fell from her lips then was pure bullshit—if you’ll pardon the expression. “Oh, I manage blahbitty, blah, blah in between raising my children.” She had been careful to omit this fact as well, except for a single instance when TPG mentioned her hatred of angst-ridden teenagers, while pointing at her own. As I prodded a little, without much effort, I finally got a shred of the truth in light of a recent divorce, two or three (?) children that TPG was “dying to be rid of”, and a host of other less-than-stellar historical notes. It wasn’t that I relished at her misfortunes, understand. It was just that I was still confused why a person could still be so ashamed of themselves enough to begin a cover-up of their own life.
I’ve never been one to define myself by my friends, but TPG was apparently living vicariously through hers. The whole experience reminded me of just how silly high school really was. The notables, throughout our tenure there, were obvious winners just stepping through high school on their way to great careers already. They were the Captains of the Volleyball Team, the members of the Chess Club, the Head Cheerleaders and Overachievers of America. It was all good. So why’d it manage to feel so bad? Not that I didn’t have my fair share of accomplishments that I was equally proud about, but I didn’t need to give TPG my resume while we stood there. It wasn’t necessary to explain ourselves. I was more interested in catching up on ancient history and maybe just laughing out loud with someone who shared that whole experience. Alas, that was not to be.
While some are just more apt at doing and being successes, others have only glimpses or brushes with greatness which suit them just fine. Complete and utter normalcy, boringly random events. Oh, and nothing. Absolutely nothing. Isn’t that grand? A series of plateaus and rises and falls and satisfactions and disappointments. Real life. Not a fairy tale or some obligatory lifestyle to live up to. Not all people can be President or Oprah. Sometimes, it’s just great to hear about the everyday stuff, sans fluff. Ordinariness could well be the next fad. Maybe.
Then it dawned on me, as TPG raced through more lists (having a conversation with herself really), that maybe she was filled with regret. Maybe TPG wanted to justify her life by suggesting that the other alumni were the company she chose to keep in her rolodex of memory. The Worthies. The Important People. The Ones That Matter. That’s the true reason why high school isn’t where we end up. It’s just the rite of passage that often decides what type of person we want to be. Nothing etched in stone. That’s why The Most Likely To Succeed doesn’t always make it past the yearbook entry. Yeah, sometimes it’s dead-on, but there is no definitive way of telling who’ll become what. That’s the beauty and magic behind living. It’s always a surprise.
When TPG had finished talking, I was pleased to set off my merry way. ‘Merry’ because I had been reminded of what I left behind and I was happy to leave it there. As for her comment on the mall being so small and useless, I pose this question:
If it were still such a dump, why was she there?