Search This Blog

Monday, July 16, 2012

You Don't Have to Be A Standout to Be Somebody

Thanks to Facebook I was invited to the 30 year reunion for the class I went to school with, but didn’t graduate with.  Midway through 11th grade my family moved.  That didn’t matter to those who planned the reunion.  It was about the shared experience of growing up here.
There were over 400 who graduated from FHS in 1982.  I wasn’t involved in any activities, wasn’t athletic, or a standout by any definition of the word.  I doubted many people would even remember me.  In addition to that, the big hairstyle of that era has been replaced by a crewcut and mostly relocated to my face in the form of a beard.
That tiny insecure voice inside told me to be ready for someone to tap me on the shoulder and say, “You didn’t actually graduate with us, so you have to leave.”
It also told me to be ready in case someone copped an attitude with me, like a high school student would.  Health issues (some potentially fatal), life in some big cities, vision loss, life in a couple of large cities with vision loss have all created a much less easily intimidated version of me than the one people might remember in high school.  I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself over the years.
Then a different tiny voice told me that time and maturity hasn’t ignored all those people.  It told me to just expect a good time.  Never mind the high odds of me being the only legally blind one there.  Or the only one with a couple of transplanted organs.  I might not be the most enviable one there, but I was pretty sure I had the most atypical life.

Three weeks before the reunion, I had my gall bladder removed along with a hernia repair.  I was down 15 pounds, which would have been a blessing for some, but not in my case.  In just a few weeks I went from being in the best shape of my life to the same scrawny body I had in high school.  It was a chore to find clothes that didn’t hang off me.  Everybody wants to look at these things, whether it’s been 10 years or 70. 

Yes, I was a little self-conscious beforehand about being the only visually-impaired one there.  But, that's almost always the case and I'm finally coming to terms with it.  Besides, most of the others have to use reading glasses these days.  I guess that makes me a trendsetter.

I had a good time.  People walked up and spoke to me, so it didn’t matter that I couldn’t see across the room.  I said, “You actually remember me?” about a dozen times.  The usual response was, “Of course I do.”

When I said that to Ziva, followed by, “I was such a nobody,” she looked me in the eye and said, “Everybody is somebody.”  This from one of the cool, tall, pretty chicks back in high school who I didn’t really know back then.  I had approached her wanting to connect with a fellow writer.

The next thing I knew, I was having a great time with her, Jinger, and Lisa (more cool, pretty girls who were at the reunion) on Dickson Street.  I expected to see old friends that night, but never expected to make new ones of people I hadn’t known back then.

Since then, I’ve done a little revising on the history book in my head.  I already knew that sometime since 1982, I had become somebody.  It turns out you don’t have to be a standout to be somebody and more people notice you than you think.

Now I stand out without really trying and not for the reasons I would have chosen.  Now I’m somebody because of that.  But it turns out I was somebody all along.   


  1. Beautifully said. I'm sorry for all of your hardships you've had to go through. The old saying, "What doesn't kill me, makes me stronger" is so true. Life has a way of kicking you even when you're down. But those who have had an easy life would probably not survived a pimple in high school. Good luck with your ventures.

    1. Thanks Diana. My soon-to-be-published memoir is title What Didn't Kill Me Made Me Stronger." It's a recurring theme in my life.

  2. Jim, what a lovely post. So now you know, you were always somebody!

    I just read a fascinating interview with that master writer, James Lee Burke, and here's an excerpt that kind of goes along with your reunion experience.

    (quote - Burke is talking about his new book, CREOLE BELLE.)

    "The challenge for every writer is to create characters who are both good and evil. It's the contradictions in us that allow us our moral vision. All truth, all wisdom, in some way is born out of pain. A person's humanity usually exists in direct proportion to the amount of pain he has suffered.

    "In much of what I write, the very rich are people who are insular in nature. I'm not indicating they're evil, but this has been my experience with them. There is a strange kind of pathology inside the culture of the very rich; they do not understand suffering, but the consequence is they don't understand joy, either."

    Something to think about -- to understand both suffering and joy.

    All the best,

    Pat Browning

    1. Thanks Pat. One day I hope to be rich, but I'll never forget what it was like to struggle.