Today at brunch, I ran into one of my high school teachers and her partner, Burt. I mentioned that going to my 10-year high school reunion had raised some questions for me:
* At graduation, what were my hopes for the coming years? How close have I come to living out what I had envisioned, and how do I feel about that?
* In what ways did school help me get to where I am now? In what ways is it holding me back?
* How might I have turned out differently if I’d been able to do what I wanted in school instead of what was required of me?
Burt said that he’d attended his 35-year high school reunion this year, and he and his classmates had been having similar conversations. They’d been talking about how their education had shaped them, and what effects it was still having on them. It fascinates me that these questions are coming up not only 10 years after high school graduation, but 35 years after. It reminds me of how important it is to reflect on them throughout our lives, so they don’t occur to us for the first time at our 50th high school reunion, or our 70th.
How would you answer these questions yourself? Leave a comment.
At graduation, I was looking forward to college, and looking forward to springboarding from that into a solid design job like everybody else.
I went to a small school, and I think the ability for someone like me to try different sorts of activities without having to worry about “making the team” helped me realize I could do things I wanted to. We did almost no critical thinking or critical writing in school, and I definitely felt behind when I entered college. Other kids were more culturally aware on every facet, and it certainly took me awhile to catch up. Once I did, though, Loyola proved to be a great inspiration in teaching me how to think.
I definitely would like to have more initiative in undertaking personal projects, like my brother Jeff does. I was able to be successful in high school with only a meager effort; I’ve never really broken out of that mindset. Having an attitude where I was more invested in what I’m learning would definitely have given me more initiative today.
This is going to sound absolutely ridiculous coming from me but at graduation I had no hopes for the coming years. Instead I had the absolute belief I would go to college, graduate in four years, marry shortly afterward and start a family. Ha! I graduated college and that’s about as close as I got. Most days I’m completely fine with where I am.
I think my 12 years in parochial school taught me to persevere and constantly seek more knowledge. (They also gave me an, at times, unhealthy fear of authority figures, the drive to study for hours on end the night before a test, and the ability to stay in one building for upwards of seven hours without wanting to throw myself at a window.) For some reason, I still haven’t been able to even partially digest what effect my schooling has had on myself.
If I’d been able to do precisely what I wanted in school, I’d probably be an architect or artist right about now. Also, I’d be as fluent in French as I am in Spanish. (This is all supposing I’d gone to the same schools but been allowed to study precisely what I wanted. If I’d had a COMPLETELY different schooling experience I would be mostly fluent in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Cantonese, in addition to being an architect or artist who spends her vacations traveling to various countries studying the local ecosystem and culture.)
I have several posts brewing about these questions, but for now I’ll say:
At graduation, I was almost sure that I’d become a journalist, probably a writer for entertainment magazines. It’s funny that I’ve ended up writing again, and incorporating my Psychology major (I came in as a Communications major but switched early on).
I think my mental timeline had me getting married around age 25 and having kids before 30. Ha! I am just learning to take care of myself, so I’m amazed to see folks my age having babies of their own.
School taught me how to identify the rules of any game and how to win at it. It also trained me to pay more attention to winning than enjoying the game, and to win even at a cost to my health and happiness. I’ve had a lot of opportunities as a result, such as getting positions I’ve applied for and being able to start an organization.
At the same time, I’ve found that school habits have held me back from taking risks, speaking my mind in groups, and deciding what I want to do versus what I think someone else wants. If I’d practiced this from an early age, I’d be much more confident in the little and big decisions I make and more comfortable changing direction when they don’t pan out as expected.
1) I was pretty sure I’d do something interesting in tech.
My longer term goals remain the same, become involved with the space program. (now either public or private) write, change the world for the better,
I’ve chipped at it all nicely (consulted for Delta Space Systems, and distantly, NASA. My hosting company is set to change the way information is created and preserved, and I’m about to take advantage of a financial market that’s been abandoned by the mainstream. I’ve also got about 1/8th of my book written; and I got the material from a hobby that took me all the way to the Attorney General.)
Financially I’m not bad but not where I wanted to be really. I’d like the houses and the jet etc. I live my life on my terms though, and above and beyond financial goals, that’s always been paramount.
I feel good, but I also feel there’s a great deal of both work and opportunity in-front of me. I also feel better prepared than ever to actualize it.
3) I mostly did what I wanted anyway, much to the chargin of my teachers and parents. This helps me answer:
2) School, by providing an obstacle, in large part helped me cultivate the ability to overcome it; and get what I wanted (achieving my dreams) while fooling the rest of the world into at least considering me minimally compliant. Randy Pausch said “Brick walls are there for a reason; they… show us our determination… let us prove how badly we want things.”
In that sense, high school was my “brick wall” both intellectually, and socially. It showed me how badly and just who I wanted to be, then gave me the ‘dare’ to be it or STFU. It danced, and hopefully I danced back.