Monday, February 19, 2007

How do you like me now, now that I'm on my way?

Thanks to Delta I had to rearrange some of my plans for Friday (and I never did get around to doing any of the work I brought with me!). I met two friends from high school, Dan and Bob, for drinks and dinner. We went to a hip little place called Olive or Twist. Get it?

I hadn't seen Bob since our graduation day in 1991, and I've only seen Dan a few times since then. Bob tracked me down via my work blog a few months ago and badgered me into coming out to Pittsburgh for the reunion. Over several beers (them) and two lemon drops (me) we caught up on each others' lives, argued about politics (in that way people do when they've had a few drinks and don't want to talk details), and got to eat cake from a retirement party someone else was having at the restaurant. Who doesn't like free cake??

We made our way to another (nearly empty) bar and talked about stadiums and economics for another hour or two (and a couple more rounds of drinks). It was a really fun night out - exactly the low key sort of vibe that was perfect for my less-than-gregarious self.

Thanks to the late night, my next day was pretty mellow. I slept in, drank the tea and tomato juice delivered to my room (for free - I love this hotel!) and then made my way over to Macy's (may Kaufmann's rest in peace) to try to find some lunch and then get my hair done for the reunion that evening. I assumed it would be easy to find lunch in downtown Pittsburgh on a Saturday. All I found was fast food joints (nothing good) and some nasty looking pizza at the Macy's "cafe", which was really more like a gross snack bar. So I got a small carton of milk and called it lunch.

You would think after all these years I would have figured out how to make my hair look decent, but I think I'm just missing that gene. Perhaps it's the same one that controls hand-eye coordination, and throwing a baseball the right way? And especially if I'm out of town without my irons (curling and flat) and potions, the chances of me creating a decent hairstyle are slim to none. So I made an appointment with Shelly at the Elizabeth Arden salon in Macy's/Kaufmann's and she did her thing. I did buy some promising gooey stuff that makes the frizz go away, so maybe it's the magic ingredient that will lead to hair nirvana forever. Um, probably not.

Now for the fun stuff. Marcie and her husband Michael came to pick me up for dinner before we braved the reunion. As I mentioned in my previous post, I wasn't sure what to expect from the reunion. I didn't much care for high school, and downright hated it my senior year.

Through the power of the Internet I tracked down Marcie's email address last year and got back in touch with her. She was the valedictorian of our class (seemingly effortlessly) and came across as being above the whole stupid high school thing. I envied her attitude, for sure (but not the valedictorian part, since I was completely happy being #2 having expended little to no effort studying).

We had a great dinner on the South Side, at a cute restaurant in an old house called UUBU 6. Over dinner we caught up on the past 15 years. She and her husband have got it together, seriously. Great careers, they obviously like each other, and they even *look* great together. They were awesome company and I'd love to hang out with them again. And I must be grown-up and/or happy, because I was not in the least bit envious of them, just totally happy for her.

Which brings me to another philosophical observation - I had some real trepidation about attending this reunion and seeing a lot of people who made me feel bad about myself back in the day. I had imagined for many years that I'd stroll back into our reunion with my fabulous job, fabulous husband, looking fabulous and the soundtrack running in my head would alternate between Toby Keith's "How do you like me now?" and "Have you seen me lately" by the Counting Crows. And this would absolve all of the icky feelings I had about these people in high school because my life would be so much better than theirs. (Marcie, Judy, Dan and a few other friends excepted here). To put it bluntly, I was bitter for a long, long time.

And that bitterness went away 5 minutes after we got to the reunion. Suddenly 1987-1991 seemed like a lifetime away (it was half my life ago) and I couldn't really remember or summon those bad feelings anymore. People were really nice, even those who didn't give me the time of day in school. And instead of playing up my success (and luck) in life, I found myself mostly just answering questions about where I worked without a lot of elaboration, and talking more about Peanut and Spike.

And maybe it was the drinks I had (the bar we went to seems to think a lemon drop consists of only lemon vodka) but I had a sort of epiphany.

In the few years after I graduated in my bitterness, I thought that beyond the few friends I had who went to a decent college, everyone else wouldn't amount to much. Part of it was a snobbishness on my part and the sheltered life I had, and part of it was a fervent hope that the crap I put up with in high school was all part of the master plan and I'd be vindicated/rewarded after graduating from Caltech and getting a good job. (The geeks shall inherit the earth and all that). I had a very narrow outlook on what it meant to be successful.

Of the folks who showed up (maybe a third of our class), people had done pretty well with their lives despite not following the "traditional" path I'm used to.

Several of my former classmates carry a gun for their jobs or do dangerous work, as special agents, soldiers, state troopers, firefighters or police officers. And every one of them loved their job. It takes a heck of a brave person to do that kind of work - I'm certainly not signing up for it.

Many people have kids, of course, and they were all equally proud of them and happy to talk about them. A lot of people were happily married, and some were divorced but happy about that too. As I talked to people, I realized I was having a good time, and the pressure to show off just went away. It was neat to talk to people who were in a completely different profession than I am, since in Seattle, we're almost always surrounded by techie people. In my high school class we also have a diplomat, a truck driver, a caterer and an environmental scientist who works on hazardous waste stuff.

Anyway, I know it sounds trite, but it took a trip of 6,000 miles and 16 years back in time to make me realize that success comes in all forms. I have known for a few years that I am happy and confident about my life but this was a true test for me. There was no envy in my heart at all this weekend.

Except, maybe, for Marcie's gorgeous diamond earrings. But then again, my wedding anniversary is coming up, so maybe a little birdie will drop hints in TJ's ear. A girl's gotta have her ice. Peace out.


  1. Glad you had a good time and found some peace with the past. I think I came to some sort of similar epiphany with my experience at Tech a few years ago, but I seriously doubt any such thing will ever happen with me and my high school. Not that I'll ever know, never planning on attending a reunion :P

    Aahhh...I need a nice hotel and spa outing. Already. And I'm less than a month into my job. :( -LL

  2. Isn't it wonderful that you learn some great life lessons in the most unexpected places? So glad you had a good time connecting with some of your high school classmates! Love, Amma


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