Best Part? I Paid to be Here

It’s been some time since my last actual blog, so I thought I’d give it a go, to see if I still had the formula down.  A quick catch up is in order, I suppose:

  • I’m not just some bum anymore. I’ve taken a job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as an Electronics Technologist. It sounds like it might be important, but really I just install conference room audio/visual systems. Pays good, though.
  • My web-based sitcom, K’s House, has completed it’s first season run! We had a lot of fun making it, and I hope people will eventually stumble across it to watch.
  • I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s very slow and boring, and yes I got the point of the story.

There, all caught up!

Cute schoolboy keeping open book on head in classroom
My biggest concern is that we’re failing with education in some major ways. This kid, for example, is probably going to forever misunderstand the meaning of the word “classic”.

Not that I’m trying to attach an age to myself, but my twentieth anniversary high school reunion was this passed weekend. An old friend, who felt that it was our duty to ourselves to go to this event, requested that I accompany him. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was fairly certain I would be in for an evening full of, “Nope, sorry, I just can’t place you.”

Nor was I disappointed, at least where my expectations were concerned. Actually, that’s a bit snarky; I had a really good time, and will leave the fact’s dependence on the copious amount of alcohol I consumed to the discretion of the reader.

Purely by accident, my friend and I wore matching outfits.  His collared shirt was black, his tie was red, and I was the same type of sleek and sexy in reverse. When we arrived at the country club, my friend was immediately recognized by the alumna handing out pre-printed name badges, embraced, and inquired after. When he mentioned my name, she immediately began writing out a name badge for me, taking for granted that I was my friend’s date for the evening.

Straightened out, we headed for the bar, and I followed around as my friend mingled a little. For some time it appeared that the type of person that came to such an event wasn’t the kind that recalled folk like me, but I was enjoying the buzz, the music, and the observations. Eventually, a woman that I did remember approached, and I got to have quite a pleasant conversation with her about life, the past, and being mistreated in high school.

The young woman, who was a mousy, silent thing at age 17, had found her voice, and her confidence. She was (is still, I imagine, it was only a few days ago) very attractive, had a good looking husband, and spoke of her wonderful child. She also spoke of looking around the room, picking out a majority of the night’s guests and fitting them into the category: you were mean to me.

(Note**: see writer’s addendum at the bottom of this blog) 

If this picture is accurate, Sisyphus would have been the strongest person ever... if he weren't already dead.
If this picture is accurate, Sisyphus would have been the strongest person ever… if he weren’t already dead.

If for no other reason, then to show everyone that their childish bullying held no lasting effect, I would have come as well. As it turned out I, apparently, wasn’t so much the victim in high school as I was the juvenile tormentor. Now, I’ve always been a bit of a bear when it comes to my opinions, especially when they concern people I care for and want to see succeed, but I’ve never really considered the lasting effects even the best of intentions might have.

Late in the night, after I had raced through those three sheets, and was club dancing with an old friend’s girlfriend, while he and my traveling companion spirited off for something in more of an inhalant, another of my schoolyard fellows approached me, and asked if I remembered her. I did, although I did far better the next day (read: late in the afternoon) after I had sobered and napped extensively. How my movements must have seemed to her, jolting around as I did on the dance floor! Some time after her initial attempt at contact, it suddenly became necessary to me that I ask her cordial questions about how she’d spent the last twenty years. With this in mind, a darted over to her, startling her greatly in the process. Maybe I was drunk, but there’s no mistaking that wide-eyed look, especially when accompanied by a quick effort to lean back away.

When Grumpy Cat doesn't approve of your bad behavior, you know you messed up.
When Grumpy Cat doesn’t approve of your bad behavior, you know you messed up.

Well, it happened and the night went on. I felt bad, poor woman, but was overjoyed when I suddenly found a Facebook request from her. I used the opportunity to attempt an apology, and received a very pleasant reply, in which she detailed my ceaseless efforts to tease and torment her throughout our high school acquaintance. She went on to say that she harbored no ill will towards me for any of it, that quite the contrary she felt stronger for the tough skin I had helped her to grow.

How horrible! I thought and still think, that I should stick in someone’s mind, simply because of what they perceived to be the negative way that I treated them. Even if she attributed the outcome positively, I can’t help but consider the time she must have spent feeling accosted and unhappy, all the while being too shy or kind or passive to say anything about it. Or worse, she did, and I laughed it off and continued on with my merry berating.

She turned out okay, and so did my friend from the earlier story. Maybe they were both right about the teasing of their peers in youth making them stronger. I, too, got quite a bit of it when I was younger, and I came out pretty tough skinned and confident. Something to prove became a way of life for me, and while I’m still waiting for that “ha ha, see!” finger pointing moment, I feel my negative childhood experiences are a part of that.

From the other side of that coin, it all just goes back to seeming to be a cause of grief, something I would never have intended. How many people did I treat this way, that didn’t turn out okay, just lost any remaining confidence and gave up? People will say you can’t change the past, but I shudder at the prospect.

The final question: are we better off as adults, when we’re taught the harsh lessons of society by classmates? Is the promotion of anti-bullying environments for kids today detrimental to a generation’s ability to traverse the sea of personalities they are thrust onto and forced to sail? If the nerds, dweebs, fat kids, dorks, and nobodies, aren’t told that’s what they are, will they ever know to push back, and become lawyers, doctors, presidents, and blog writers?

We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

No matter how it happened, you chose to become stronger. Get on with your bad self.


(**Writer’s Addendum: After having heard from one of the people that inexplicably found their way into this blog, I’ve discovered that I may have slightly overstated the nature of her high school experience. I’m glad that things weren’t as bad for her as my writing portrayed. I still believe the core argument of this article holds merit, however)

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