Last night, Ashley and I watched The Breakfast Club. To be honest with you, I don’t remember caring for that flick much back in the day. Falling myself somewhere between The Brain, The Criminal and The Basket-case, I found the movie trite and overly simplistic. But when I watch now, I don’t know. Maybe I pick up on some the subtleties better, and somehow it resonates with me more than it did then. But probably it’s just that I’m old enough now to see how a Breakfast Club of my own would have affected my life.
High school both was and wasn’t tough for me. The work was ridiculously easy,(1) and I got high marks without much effort. Every teacher ever told my parents about how I did really well but that I just wasn’t living up to my potential. Which was – and perhaps is – totally true.
In that sense, I was more like Bender: I never found anything to be passionate about. Lots of things interested me, but nothing really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. And so I always felt I was letting my parents down even though, paradoxically, I got good grades. If you always hear that you did a good job but that you could just do better if you only applied yourself, you get all angsty about it after a while.(2) Then you say, “Screws fall out all the time; the world’s an imperfect place,” and stop trying not because you don’t see the point but because you do.
School in America is centered on one goal: making you a productive member of society, preferably a good and morally upstanding one. My parents were both very productive members of society, and upstanding ones at that. Yet their lives seemed to me somewhat…I don’t know. Not sad, exactly, but something like that. We had dinner together most nights when I was younger and when they talked of work, it was rarely a happy tale.(3) I began early on to think that work made people miserable, and therefore I cared little about work and little about being a productive member of society.
Instead, I wanted to be happy and to help other people be happy. I thought that the best way to affect that happiness was to help people see the bullshit they were buying into.
But high school is as much a social experiment as anything else, and it’s here that I was The Basket-case. Because I fit in, even though I hated how these people spent their lives. I knew that when they got older most of my friends would be doing the same thing were we doing then: drinking to much, partying too much, living a life unfulfilled. It made me sad for them and made me want to separate myself from them…but later. When I was in high school, I played along because I didn’t have the courage to be the outcast. And so most of what I did then was hollow, shallow and meaningless. Except for when I tried to wake people up.(4)
Today live the life I wanted to live. Yes, I have a fairly menial job, but there’s an aspect of it that really makes me happy, that I really honestly enjoy.(5) My life outside of work is a fractured jumble of spending time with what I love: Ashley, reading, writing, music and video games. And cats, apparently. I haven’t spent an evening watching television in years, and I’m rather proud of that.
And so I didn’t live up to my potential in high school. And for many years after. But I spend every day now actively engaged in what I love. To me, then, high school led me exactly where I wanted to be. It just took me longer I guess because I never had a Breakfast Club of my own.
If only I’d’ve even once gotten a detention…
- Until that year I ill-advisedly took physics and learned the limits of my math skills.
- I’m not faulting the ‘rents here. It’s their job to say that sort of thing, Plus, I was a difficult child, being smarter than average but with the emotional development of a nice, shiny rock.
- Unless Dad was talking about one of the many unauthorized uses he put the factory-wide PA system to during his day.
- And today, when I find most of these people on Facebook, I see that I failed them.
- Interestingly, the part I enjoy is no different from my favorite parts of high school: talking to people to get them to see things that they are currently blind to and finding the things that I myself and blind to.