Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alumni schadenfreude

The good news about my 20-year reunion is that's where I met my wonderful husband.

posted Wed, 14 Jul 2004

I got my alumni magazine yesterday so of course I have spent today feeling like a complete failure. I always go straight to my class year to see what my classmates have been doing since 1985, then slip into a funk afterwards.

Here’s a typical entry: “I can’t believe how time flies! Seems like just yesterday I was finishing my joint MD/PhD at Harvard (so easy after Rice!), but now that I have built a successful law practice (after med school, law school was a piece of cake. No cadavers!) and written four bestselling novels, I realize that it must have been a year or two since then. It’s children that age you, really. Having a daughter old enough to compete in the Olympics this summer is making me feel a little over the hill, if you know what I mean, although I did just win the More Magazine “Models Over 40” contest. See me in this month’s issue! I’m on the cover! Fortunately, my husband, who founded a Fortune 50 company, will be able to take us all to Athens on the company jet, so I won’t have to miss the case I am presenting to the Supreme Court. If you’re ever in Manhattan, Palm Beach or Vail, give us a call!”

OK. I exaggerate. But not much.

I was going to be great. That was always the plan. I was going to major in biomedical engineering, go to med school, then design artificial body parts. I came up with this plan without ever even seeing “The Six Million Dollar Man,” believe it or not.

Ha. One year of chemistry, calculus and physics was all it took to bring me to my knees. I didn’t like it and I wasn’t good at it. It didn’t help that so many of my classmates had gone to prep schools or public schools with strong AP programs while I had gone to ten different schools from K to 12. My high school didn’t have AP, but it had a powerhouse football team the still consistently wins division 5A championships. And that’s so important.

But I digress. I still could have been great as an English major, but I have been cursed with – what – lack of ambition? Lack of focus?

Were I to summarize my post-college life for the alumni magazine, it would go like this:

“Hola! After five years of working for a company that was so bad at what it did that it is no longer in business, I went to UT for my MBA. I managed to graduate during one of the worst recessions in decades – only ¼ of my class had job offers at graduation. But I had decided well before then I wanted To Make The World A Better Place, so I joined the Peace Corps. Two years of working in Chile with a group of indigenous women satisfied my thirst for poverty (nothing like having to lock your toilet paper in your desk to keep it from being stolen), and I returned to the US determined to sell out to a major corporation. Unfortunately, none of them were buying. After 20 months of job searching and temp work, I finally got a job in Miami with Ryder in the Corporate Finance group, otherwise known as the sweatshop. I lasted there one year and one day, after which I took a job with my current employer, a manufacturer in a commodity segment (read: the market sets our prices because we make the exact same thing our competition does) that is leaving the US. Do I know how to make good decisions or what? You may remember me as engaged to Bobby – well, I broke that off and he married one of my roommates instead. I will probably die alone unless I start accumulating cats.”

That’s the sort of thing I want to read. I want raw honesty. I want the truth. I want admissions of pending divorces, adultery, weight gain, and drug addiction. Is that so wrong of me?

Actually, there was a great note a few years ago. This guy (not in my class) wrote about his marriage and his children, then casually slipped in that he had realized he was really a woman trapped in a man’s body and that he had undergone a sex-change operation and was now known as Michelle. Course, knowing Rice students, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had written the whole thing as a joke.

Someone told me that at the college 20-year reunion, everyone is worried about impressing everyone else, so no one tells the truth. That’s the reunion I have coming up in 2005. He then said that by the 25-year reunion, people are more relaxed and will admit that their kids are juvenile delinquents, that they are getting divorced, and that they hate their jobs. I can’t wait!

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