It’s 2:30 am, and I can’t sleep.
Since I’m in the process of planning my 20-year high school reunion, I came downstairs to look through the ol’ yearbook in search of ideas … thoughts … whatever. Oddly, in reading through the yellowed pages, I discovered something unique: Pride.
During much of my prep life in Mahopac, I was a loser. Not a huge loser, just loser enough to be sorta dorky and mildly ignored. I ran track and cross country, worked on the student newspaper, had a small handful of good friends, hit up the occasional party, never drank, smoked or kissed a girl. Blahâ€”that was me. Just blah.
That said, in reading the yearbook, two things stand out that give me pride:
1. In the six-year span of junior high and high school, I ran for student government five timesâ€”and never won. Five. Times. How unpopular must a guy be to endure that sort of streak? Yet now, looking back, I’m oddly impressed by myself (excuse the self-back patting). How many teenagersâ€”at the peak of insecurityâ€”would put themselves through that sort of annual rejection?
My two most memorable elections are 7th grade and 12th. In 7th grade, I ran for class president against Jerry Tesler (now a chef). My platform was singular and, I believed at the time, genius: We needed a third lunch line in the cafeteria. The result: I lost by about 300 votes (in a class of 350).
As a senior, I ran for representative, and decided I was going to channel my inner Malcolm X. I wrote a fiery, angry speech that blasted classmates, the libraries, the cafeteria … everyone. When I showed it to Mr. Maloney, the student adviser (and a wonderful manâ€”RIP), he told me I’d have to re-write it. Well, I didn’t. I stood before the class in the gymnasium, pumped up, using the refrain “I’m tired of” this and “I’m tired of” that. The place went nuts, and I was convinced I’d finally snag a win.
Alas, I lost. The most crushing of ’em all.
2. I tried out for basketball three times. Cut trying out for freshman hoops in 9th grade, cut trying out for JV in 10th. Took 11th off, tried out as a seniorâ€”and made it. (In a fit of stupidity, I quit the team a week later after I felt slighted by the coach. I still remember proudly telling Tom Gilchrist, the gym teacher and my track coach, that I’d quit. I expected his support. Instead, he told me something I’ve never forgotten: “When you quit once, it gets easier and easier to do.” He was dead-on.)
Anyhow, that’s all. Sorry for the bat packing … just thought I’d share. I always felt like my parents went after stuff, even in tough times; even when failure was likely. They always tried hard, and never discouraged me from pursuing the unobtainable.