High school

Sense Memories of Falling in Love

This album dropped just over 20 years ago and I was beyond head-over-heals with my longest term of High School girlfriends. This song “Fade into you” perfectly transports me back to my wistful days as a heart-achy youth, just marinating in the brain chemicals of being so smitten. If it wasn’t for work and school, I’d have lounged around all Heroin-addict-style on the crazy high of just… are you digging this air?!?

What’s so funny about this, is it’s only the songs Unpopularity that has managed to perfectly preserve this sense memory of that time and place. If it was anything else, I would have heard it over the years at parties and on the radio and the context of it would have changed. No, this was the exact sound of being just, obsessed with another human being. The sound of endless devotion and bottomless despair for the fact that it wouldn’t last.

We get fewer and fewer of these moments as we go on, while conversely, Gen Y & Z will have more of these sense memory moments. Growing up with the internet means you can find the weird and obscure and the art that perfectly speaks to you. Popular culture has never, at any time, had more AND less draw on people than it does now. Our lives we live in public are more shared than ever, while our private lives are more private too.

Ask anyone 35 and older what song they fell in love to, and ask the same of a 16-year old today. Odds are that everyone knows the first song, I bet you few know the later. What was yours?

1996 Rears Its Head…

1996 Rears Its Head…

Back in 1996 (the year I graduated High School, btw) NPR started airing a segment by Radio Diaries, called “Teenage Diaries” which gave recording equipment to teenagers around the country to record their lives and thoughts for a year.

Recently, they’ve been doing follow ups with the initial participants as it’s been 17 years since they were 17 themselves. Obviously, when you hear of the existence of an audio time capsule dating to the same age you were at the time, you can’t help but be intrigued.

One of the teenagers, Melissa, had a baby that year which mirrors a friend of mine at the time. Actually, a few friends at the time, sadly. Listening to the recordings immediately takes me back to that time and place and reminds me of the feelings of uncertainty and confusion. What would their lives be like? What would the kids be like when they reached the same age? What the hell were we all thinking?

The most unsettling thing – or rather, the least expected – is how young they all sound. Despite the best attempts at appearing “grown up” they all come across as inherently uncertain and… very much like children, really.

Funny. Because growing up, I don’t think many of us thought of ourselves like children. We couldn’t wait to be adults and we thought we had a good handle on how to act that way. Perhaps “act” is the giveaway in that last sentence.

Personally, I have video recordings of my friends and I from various parties, and about 700 pages of notes collected from them during my High School years. In fact, a year ago when I moved, I took the time to organize them in chronological order. It’s all there: Loves lost and loves dreamt of that never happened, petty slights and minutiae of all sorts that are hard to recall. In a very real way, I have my own “Teenage Diaries” but it’s from all of my friends and what they were thinking; hopes, fears, posturing, pretending, achieving, regretting. So much weight for young minds and young hearts.

I’ve always been a fan of history since I was young, and maybe that’s why I’m drawn to this series, and why I kept all of that stuff in the first place. Notes between classes were always supposed to be throw away stuff – everyone else threw my notes away after all. Except for one ex-girlfriend who ceremoniously burned them in her fire place after some falling out. Friends would ask me why I kept them and I never had a great answer. “Maybe they’ll be important someday” or, “We’ll all want to read these!” but those were hopeful answers.

I now know the reason I kept all that stuff was to better understand myself and to hopefully understand “us” as a loose collection of friends. We’ve all grown up and out and rarely talk anymore, but I’m happy to report, we still talk. Those that matter most (and you never know who that is at the time) will always be there, time and time again. And it’s fun to share that history and look back and realize we didn’t have a clue. Not a real one anyway. We thought we knew who’d we become and what our lives would be like and virtually all of those predictions turned out wrong.

Rob, Chris, Tracy

Rob, Chris, Tracy

It’s an important lesson now to remember, as we look at the next 17 years. Who will we be at 51? As confident as we were then, I think it’s important to be reminded of the outcomes of our previous predictions as we make the next big decisions in our lives.

So, what’s the big take away? For me, it would be this: Beware hubris. Seek continuously to look at yourself through an honest lens. Don’t forget who you wanted to be and can still become. If that’s all I learned from this, then it’s an absolute fortune.

Oh, and one more thing: Don’t break up with an amazing young lady two days before prom – no matter the circumstances surrounding your own life situation.

Is College Worth it?

As hundreds of thousands of fresh faced high school grads launch their credit-card-driven assaults on Target & Walmart positions the nation over, are parents and students spending more time debating mini-fridges than the very education they’re aiming to get?

ABC’s 20/20 broaches the subject in the video above. I’m certain there are a number of college grads who feel as though, perhaps, they paid a bit too much for their educations. But hey – what are you going to do, right? “We had to go! It cost what it cost!”

I remember sitting on a porch one evening about ten years ago speaking with a friend’s beau who claimed that:

“College has absolutely no value whatsoever.For anyone. Seriously. No one should go.”

In only his early 20’s, this guy was knocking on the door of six figures, with only a high school diploma to speak of. Well, that and a truckload of charisma and confidence – but they don’t have pieces of paper for those sorts of things.

As I was presently enrolled in school, I rebuked his claim as a bridge too far. Certainly there had to be some redeeming value I was getting for my hard earned money!? I’d read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and was now well versed in the ancient Japanese practice of “foot binding” but did that make me any more employable? Better yet, would it help me break through the phalanx that is a modern day HR department to even get myself in front of someone for an interview? When everyone has a degree, does anyone have a degree?

I guess the pertinent question here is “what makes people successful?” Is a college education, where students learn to work hard, study, prepare for large projects, etc… the best indicator of future success? Or, as the guy in the video asserts, would those top high school students have been successful no matter? Isn’t it their innate drive, passion, and personality that serve as the better markers for a stellar career?

I never did get my 4 year degree. I was putting myself through school full time and wound up finding out that I was really good at property management and sales. It also helped that I was making double what I would have, had I finished with a journalism degree (my chosen course of study) and all without taking out a ton of additional loans. Not that I could have found a job at the time anyway (broadband internet wasn’t exactly the best thing to happen to newspapers) but I digress…

Something doesn't add up...

I’m in the wrong business! Clearly opening a college is where it’s at!

Undoubtedly, a college education is valuable. How much so remains the real question and one that only parents and students can answer for themselves. Live it up at an out of state school? On campus or off? Attend a local college or take mostly internet courses? What you choose to spend is entirely up to you. Just make sure you’re honest about what it’s worth to you and what you think it’s worth to the market place.

If you did graduate and are now enjoying the process that is paying off student loans, let me know your thoughts! Worth it overall? Would you do it over, and if so, would you change anything?