I went to my best friend's (since grade school) son's high school graduation this afternoon. The ceremony and everything around it gave me pause for reflection. Here are some of the thoughts I took away from this...
I don't know what the big fuss is about with childhood obesity. Most of the children I saw at today's graduation looked just fine. Some could lose a pound or two...but that wasn't any different from when I was going to school over 30 years ago. Seriously, if this is what our elected officials sees as one of the "most serious epidemics" facing our world today, I think they have their heads screwed-on funny. It isn't the vending machines or the marketing of soft drinks that is causing nutrition problems in young 'uns today. The problem is that their parents have poor eating habits themselves, and have passed this along to their kids. How can we fix the problem? Fix the parents. I don't know how you do this though. You can't legislate-away stupid. I am not calling parents overtly stupid, but I am saying that some of the lifestyle choices they build their family upon and set an example for their own children may very well be, well, stupid. Remember parents, kids emulate what you do. They don't do what you say, they do what you do.
Then I listened to the speeches singing the praises of high school, how it was so much of a family, and how everyone will miss all this as they get older. I suppose for some people this is true, and perhaps it explains what I see of the comments from my old high school classmates on facebook. I apologize to my former classmates when I say that I do not miss my high school years. I don't have a deep and lasting connection with almost everyone I knew (there are a few, and I can count these on one hand). I don't reflect fondly on my high school years. It was an awkward time where I felt much more left out than I do now as an adult. Today I saw picture mosaics that were supposed to represent these fond memories that the class of 2013 would remember ten, twenty, and thirty years or more from now. It was the same pictures I remember in my yearbook back in the early 1980s. It was pictures of the school dances, prom, sports events, and maybe a student council or class trip picture thrown in. Fact is I was never part of this. Me and most of the people I remember being friends with in high school weren't really part of all this. I'm not saying this was a conspiracy, but I am saying that these same people who look back fondly on high school are going to be the ones in the various cliques. The other half, well, sees it as just something that happened before the next phase of life.
I seriously looked back at my high school days to see if I could find something -- anything -- that would evoke fond memories. I have a few, but they're not really of high school itself...
I remember a girl I knew - her name is June. I have tried to locate her, and can't find her anymore. We were on the bus together for the high school "Gifted and Talented Summer Institute." June was involved with something musical, and I was taking a class about game theory (as close to computer science as they had back then). I had a wild crush on June, and as nerdy guys do in this situation, I managed to make an ass of myself. I didn't know it, but June already was seeing someone, but she took the time to talk to me on the phone about all kinds of things, and saw something other than my being an ass. I'd really like to talk to her again now that I've matured, and just share ideas and stuff again without hormones in the way.
I remember the time I spent with several people sharing ideas about computers and making them come to life. One of those people was Lenny, my friend who's son graduated today. Another was Jay, who died back in December. The third was Howard, who I've tried to revive a friendship with, but his current life and mine seem to be incompatible. This is another way to say that we've grown apart - he has his life and I have mine. We were all ahead of our time, and what everyone takes for granted today our little group actually was a big part of laying the foundation for. We met with our counterparts in the nearby school districts of Babylon, West Babylon, Southampton, and other places on Long Island (the Long Island Computer Users Society, or LICUS) and had our own little social circle - before things like facebook, e-mail (as we know it), and text messaging ever existed. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was no Internet...yet.
As I go back further, all the way to first grade, I recall my friend Lisa. I remember Lisa giving me a ride home on her bicycle in first grade, and like my later interaction with June, I enjoyed talking to Lisa. As we got older into third and fourth grade, we too parted company. I remember Lisa, Norma, Tom, and I (we lived near each other) getting together to ride our bicycles around and just talking about stuff. Tom and I would talk about how we built stuff in the dirt pile in his back yard, and Lisa and Norma would talk about whatever girls talk about (heck, I don't even remember now).
In third grade there was Jessica and the first sexual experience I didn't know was one or understand until I was an adult. Jessica didn't like me much anymore by high school (she was a few years behind me) and is now married and my one attempt to contact her to just say hello never received a reply. Jessica and I lived down the street from one another.
High school, though, really didn't leave me with fond memories. It didn't leave me with a sense of family. Unfortunately, perhaps due in part to my own social ineptness, this same feeling followed me straight into college, where I also have a similar lack of fond memories or sense of family. College seemed a lot like a more difficult extension of high school.
I can't blame my classmates for having a more profound connection with each other than I do. I really can't. However, I have to say that I wish they could understand why I don't. Some of my high school classmates I think did try to make that connection that, if circumstances were different, we may have been friends. I listen to the chatter on facebook and have come to the realization that most of them haven't changed a whole lot, and somehow it doesn't surprise me that their social life centers around dancing, drinking, and the rumor mill. Whatever makes them happy is fine by me.
I still have yet to find the kind of social circle that they talk about in the high school graduation speeches. As I enter the next decade of my life, I am finding it more difficult to make the kind of connections that lead to the kind of lasting memories that they talk about. I still wonder where my place is in this world.