TagHigh School

I was popular in high school for two days

I’ve often wished I could tell my younger self it will be OK. I grew up in a small town of 2,000 people in a county of about 12,000. My high school was 525 kids and my graduating class was 168.

I knew everyone and everyone knew me. If not personally, at least by name or reputation. Or both. I was a big kid and a freak to boot. The rumors that circulated about me were hilarious.

This open letter to a younger you hit home with me.

An Open Letter to My 15-Year-Old Self Just Before the Start of High School

Get a shitty job. Work in a grocery store, steering shrink-wrapped pallets of cola through cramped warehouses. Spend hours daintily arranging shelves that you will later see customers destroy in minutes. This will pay for your food court lunches and headphones, and also impress on you the nihilistic reality of most of the work out there. Get a good, long, nasty look at how impersonal and irrelevant your role on this earth can be if you’re not careful. Get your face right into it, right into the filthy shelves and bins of expired yogurt and the empty eyes of your manager and make a vow that whatever you do with your life you will always be moving away from all of that.

In High School I worked as:
– A desk clerk in a rec center
– A lifeguard
– A bagger at a Food Lion
– In my father’s print shop doing bindery work

All of these jobs taught me I needed to go to college, get a degree and learn to do something more interesting and valuable.

I still partly regret going to college. I don’t have loan debt hanging over my head. But I feel like I was a different person after college. And not a better person than when I started.

It got me a BS in Communications. Which may not have opened doors. It hasn’t closed any on HR checklists.

Get over any desire to be normal. The desire to be normal is its own perversion. Some people do achieve the appearance of normalness, which means they have successfully hidden or beaten down everything about them that is interesting or memorable in the hopes that they become impervious to criticism. Go the other way. The great joke here is that nobody has ever been normal.

There’s a reason I colored my tennis shoes with sharpies in high school. There’s a reason I worked on a literary magazine and hosted open mic nights. I knew there was no hope for me.

I was 6’5″ 250 lbs. The football coach salivated at my dimensions. But I have the aggression of a kitten and didn’t want to be a human tackling dummy.

I did almost play football once. As a kick and punter. Until I had to choose between soccer and football.

I was popular and cool in high school for about two days.

Then I chose soccer and left the football team behind. Same thing happened when I had a choice to quiet the basketball team and attend my very last open mic night as the Literary Magazine’s editor. Or ride the bench in a meaningless game for a coach that never much liked me.

I quit the team.

Be your own person. You’re much more interesting as you than you trying to be something you think someone else wants you to be.

Theory of Knowledge

When I was in high school I had the good fortune to take part in the International Baccalaureate program. Part of the program was a class called Theory of Knowledge. The entire purpose of this class was to teach us how to think. Is this even something considered in schools anymore?

We looked into philosophy and art history and theories in science and mathematics. The brunt of the class was a series of essays and associated presentations. The essays most self-directed but something which explored a deeper connection and meaning to work. I remember writing at length about the similarities between Nine Inch Nails and Edgar Allan Poe’s work. I recall writing about Dave Barry and Weird Al Yankovic’s style of humor and entertainment.

When we weren’t writing, we were talking. Not just talking but discussing and arguing. We were putting forth ideas and theories and shooting them down or supporting them.

There were not a lot of rights answers in Theory of Knowledge, TOK for short. The class was about thinking and drawing our own conclusions and examining how we arrived at them.

This all came flooding back into my head tonight as I read James Shelley’s post Like, the Post-Literate Society.

1984 is a great book because it is just as timely as it is timeless. It is a tale on control and media and influencing entire populations through fear and censorship. ((Sound familiar?))

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten…

Sounds a bit like social media doesn’t it? Like. #Tweet. Reblog.

In my thinking about TOK I remembered reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I cannot tell you what this book is about. Only that is keeps within the theme of thinking and learning.

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The author says this about his work,

Franz Kafka once wrote to a friend that the only books worth reading are those that “wake us up with a blow on the head” and send us reeling out into the street, not knowing who or what we are. According to thousands of readers I’ve heard from, this is exactly what Ishmael does for them. What makes Ishmael important is not what it’s “about” but rather what it DOES to you–and this is what you need to share with your friends. (Source)

As much as I love Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook they tend to be echo chambers. The same links, stories, ideas tend to circle round and round ad infinitum. I find myself craving new information. I want to think about new things and I want to explore again.

I have spent many hours on introspection because I feel it is important to look inward to best understand myself.

With that, I am going to buy Ishmael, and the two followup books having lent, lost or sold my copies years ago. I am going to re-examine how I think. I need something to wake me up with a blow to the head. I am ready to be a pupil again.

“Teacher seeks pupil, must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.”

Read Ishmael.

Then perhaps you can answer,

“With man gone, will there be hope for gorilla?”