Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Hello Again Everybody

Posted by Trixter on November 15, 2009


Exactly one year ago, I attempted to change my entire life to get ready for my 20th-year New Trier Class of ’89 high school reunion.  Brought on by conflicting emotions of wanting to be accepted and faint memories of truly good times, my head was swimming in thoughts like:

“I’m at a good place in my life right now, so I wouldn’t feel ashamed to attend.”

“Some of my old friends will be there, and it will be great to catch up.”

“Hey, I still have all my hair and none of it is gray; maybe if I lose a few pounds I can look closer to how people remember me.”

I can already sense what you’re thinking, and you’re right, but I went ahead with the plan anyway.  I joined Weight Watchers, and worked up the courage to look for a new job that would advance my career while being rewarding at the same time.  Lost 30 pounds.  Got the new job.  Mission accomplished.  Well, the reunion is right around the corner — and I will not be attending.  Why?

While I have some genuinely fond memories of both high school and the friends I met there, it became increasingly clear towards the end (this is the obvious part) that, 20 years later, I was still chasing feelings of inadequacy.  New Trier was (and might still be) one of the most competitive public schools in America, with more than 80% of students scoring well above the national average during the time I went there.   (The top 1/4th of my class had a weighted GPA of 3.9, and the top 1/10th had a weighted GPA of 4.6 which sounds impossible until you realize their entire coursework consisted of AP classes.)  It was one of the largest suburban public schools of the time, with a total student population of nearly 3800 when I attended.  My graduating class was over 800 students, nearly all of them grossly better than I was in almost every area of academia.  And in my head, then and now, I was trying to be accepted by everyone I personally knew, usually failing at the same time.  That’s not healthy.

I asked friends for advice on whether or not I should attend, and got good advice.  When asking ‘shouldn’t I go to catch up with old friends, etc.?’ the responses were along the lines of “Isn’t that what facebook is for?” or “You knew them for four years, then didn’t talk to them for twenty; why do you want to go again?” or “My reunion consisted of all the jocks and cheerleaders hanging out with each other while a few people sat alone at tables — just like high school!!”, etc.  The most humbling reply was from a friend who lives within driving distance:  “You don’t need a reunion to catch up with me; stop by any time.”

They’re all correct.  You can never go back, and in my case, I shouldn’t want to go back.  Still, in my head, it stings.

Many of my fellow classmates have gone in enviable directions.  Without naming names(*):

  • Our class valedictorian (and a friend of mine) went to Harvard and then scored in the financial industry in the 1990s
  • My first girlfriend became a Rhodes scholar and got her doctorate in a literary field and now lives in the UK
  • One friend who was always a better programmer than me leapfrogged me entirely by becoming an electrical engineer who also did low-level interfaces for embedded systems (some medical, I believe)
  • Another friend got her masters in environmental engineering and is now a director at a California water company, championing water quality
  • One of my oldest friends (even before we attended high school) entered one of the most selfless professions and became an educator (say what you want, that takes dedication and cajones)
  • My senior prom date got her doctorate in a musical field and has composed and performed music heard by hundreds of thousands people
  • One ludicrously talented composer and performer made the leap to Hollywood and married a brilliant mathematician (and actress)

…and the list goes on.  Compared to them, I could feel like a failure.

But I’ve done well too, in my own way.  There is a dumb yet succinct saying that goes “The only person who can make you angry is you.”  It took me a long time to realize that applies to how you feel good about yourself as well.  So here’s where I bring the reunion to me, and tell any fellow Trevians who happen to catch this blog post how I’ve been doing:

So that’s me since high school in a nutshell.  Nice to see you again.

In honor of the positive times I had at New Trier, I’ve done two things.  First, I’ve uploaded some photos of me during that time with friends to facebook, and I’ve tried to tag them where possible.  (They should be viewable even if you don’t have a facebook account.)  Secondly, and of substantially more interest to my typical nerdly blog readers, I’ve made available a transcription of the New Trier High School Fight Song played at every home game — as rendered by Music Construction Set running on a Tandy 1000 in loving 3-voice dampened square waves.  Seriously.

Hey, I’ve still got my hair.  That’s gotta count for something.

Jim, seperated by 20 years

Jim and Jim^2, separated by 20 years

Whoa — is it me, or did it just get fatter in here?

(*) Names available upon request
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15 Responses to “Hello Again Everybody”

  1. Naturally, I completely disagree here, buddy, except where you kept you hair – you definitely did. Living inside your head and coming up with conclusions is the way that one becomes an introvert, hiding in a basement and never living. Doing things is doing things. Talking about them and deciding how they would go is not.

    • Trixter said

      So you’re saying that it is better to subject myself to something with a high probability of failure/discomfort than play it safe? I went to my 5th reunion and it was just as I described; a friend went to the 10th reunion and told me it was like the 5th.

  2. Matt Hite said

    Not that you’re taking a vote, but I’m with Jason! Don’t let this one pass you by — you are obviously curious…

    • Trixter said

      Did I mention the reunion costs $105 to attend? And that the pre-signup list is private? 100 bucks for an open bar I’ll never use, with no guarantee of who might be there (other than my friends who have guaranteed they will NOT be there), are not compelling reasons to satisfy my curiosity :-)

  3. Joe said

    High School reunions are there for people who need them. The jock/cheerleader group is about what I’d expect to see there. I don’t know about you but I did not enjoy my time in High school. Why would I (you) want to go back? Sure, there were some good times here and there but for the most part I was looking forward to college and trying to dodge all of the trouble/bullcrap that there was way too much of in those 4 long years. People are good at remembering the good times but also good at forgetting the bad.

    Now if only I could get my old group together from College…

  4. When I went to my high school reunion I:

    * Met up with a girl who I’d completely forgotten about but who was, as I remembered, a real fun influence on me and my personality. I met her husband and found out about her life.

    * Chatted with a classmate I’d never interacted with, but who has since moved to Singapore with her husband and we talked about living in that country and the weirdness of having a staff (which she does, the house is huge)

    * Traded info with a couple people I’d not been able to find any other way (really).

    * Ate some great food and enjoyed seeing how people were doing.

  5. it’s been two decades. give people credit for the ability to change over time. while there will be echoes of long-buried rivalries, the dynamics will be different.

    I was trying to be accepted by everyone I personally knew, usually failing at the same time.

    your older, wiser, classmates may be more accepting now than they were then… and it sounds like they are doing some genuinely interesting things.

  6. Inspired Chaos said

    A bit of an observation:

    Trier + XT = TriXTer

    Frankly, I think both had an important influence on you, and I’m glad you are who you are. :)

  7. wohali said

    It must be the passing of the seasons that leads us to reflect on returning to the hallowed linoleum and vinyl tiled halls. I can find no other explanation for why I emailed you a couple of days ago, only to get a response showing that you’d posted this only a few days prior. :)

    “Still, in my head, it stings.” I know the feeling, and experience it daily. I did very well in school, but these days “just surviving is a noble fight.” I can’t really point to many accomplishments of mine that have changed the world in obvious, earth-shattering ways, but I do think some of my achievements have had a subtle ninja-like effect on the people that matter most to me. Ideas may be the fuel of modern times, but I’d rather say less and mean more than vice-versa. I also think that there’s plenty more to come, and that what I’ve achieved by the age of 38 doesn’t define me. So it should be no surprise that I don’t think I’ll attend my 2011 20-year reunion either.

    This morning I ran across this page (http://www.arachnoid.com/careware/index.html) which reminded me that: “We have so much, and yet we manage to:

    * Overlook great examples of beauty around us,
    * Miss our most important opportunities,
    * Manage to make ourselves miserable by expecting something even better to come along.

    Every time we whine about how tough we have it, apart from the fact that we look ridiculous, we make it harder for people around us to appreciate how much we have. We encourage people to overlook the things we do have, the gifts of man and nature. We provide a context to dismiss everything as not good enough, to be miserable in the midst of plenty.”

    You have an amazing family, a dedicated set of friends, and always work to better yourself. Isn’t that enough? :)

  8. Val said

    If you really need to reconnect with folks, you will. The one person who mattered from my high school class kept in touch; when I’ve reconnected with others we’ve always lost touch, and I’ve come to think that means something. The people who really matter stay. If you really want to know what classmates are doing, Google is your friend.

    And I’d have to say, from where I and my husband are sitting now, what you’ve accomplished is pretty damn amazing. ( :

  9. Whenever I feel bad because I cannot have something, or program like you, I remember that there are lots of people who doesn’t have half the toys I have, and know no programming :o)

    Well, hope that makes you feel better. The secret of hapiness and sense of realization is what you expect from life. I’d love to be married and having sons, but I’m 35, still no married and I can’t have babies :o)

    Ah, your sons are called Sam & Max? Wasn’t that an Amiga game? :oD

  10. Hope that makes you feel better. I’d love to be married and having sons, but I don’t have a boyfriend. :(

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