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The More Things Change, Do They Also Stay the Same?

14 Nov

It’s hard to believe, but my 20-year high school reunion is just a week and a half away.

As I’ve previously written here, this will be the first time our class has gotten together in any kind of organized/“official” way since we all graduated in 1992, and I’m looking forward to it.

To remind myself of what I may have in store, this week I got out the journals I kept during high school and skimmed through the ones from senior year.


Even though I read through them two years ago, I had forgotten just how lame I was back in the day. I obsessed about why people who drink alcohol are bad, stupid people — and about why I should or shouldn’t try a beer. I was a clueless flirt who missed so many signs (and sure things). I had an active (and delusional) fantasy life. And so on.

I’d like to think I’m a smarter, cooler, funnier, more confident, more stylish, more grounded, and more socially savvy (online and off) person than I used to be. Continue reading

This Is What Fun Looks Like

1 Oct

Unlike so many other movies set in high school, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not about someone trying to get laid, or outcasts finding acceptance, or nerds looking for a party, or student competitors hoping to win against all odds.

It’s about someone just hoping to fit in and make friends.

Yes, I know that sounds almost simplistic — a high school movie about a guy who makes friends? That’s it? — and maybe it is, but it’s in the sweet and sensitive way that Wallflower tells its story that’s impressive.

Continue reading

Come Back When You’re Ready

21 Sep

My 20-year high school reunion is in a couple months.

For one reason or another, my class hasn’t had a reunion once in the two decades since we graduated — unlike my college class, which has had one every five years (for better and for worse).

So you might think I’d be dreading or feeling nervous about this gathering. Actually, the opposite is true: I’m kind of excited for it.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with folks I haven’t seen or been in touch with in 20 years. I’m looking forward to remembering good times. I’m looking forward to seeing how people have changed. And most importantly, I’m looking forward to showing how I’ve changed, and how the me I am now is not the me I used to be.

I wonder if my class’ reunion will be anything like the reunion that’s currently on the big screen in the movie 10 Years. Continue reading

Can this Film Stop the Bullying Problem?

12 Apr

It happened when I was in fifth grade.

Our class had a substitute teacher one day, and we spent the last hour outside.

Many of us played kickball. But when the game started to get stale, the “cool kids” took the ball and started doing their own thing.

I wanted to play with them, so I tried to get in their game.

However, instead of welcoming me, they started calling me names and throwing the ball at me, hitting me with it multiple times in the head, chest, and back.

I tolerated it for a while, but then decided I’d had enough. Upset and near tears, I went inside without telling anyone. The substitute was so oblivious she didn’t even see me go.

I got to our classroom, picked up my bag and jacket, and before I headed out for the bus, I wrote a very simple note on the blackboard:

“I suck. Signed Marty”

Somehow, I held it together on the bus, and when I finally got home, I made a bee-line up to my bedroom, where I broke down and cried.

For most of my childhood, I’d been on the receiving end of bullying. From incessant name-calling to being pushed around and excluded from activities, I was pretty much your stereotypical suburban bullying victim.

And like most bullying victims, I’d gotten used to it, as if that was my lot in life and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. My parents didn’t know much about how I was being treated (I generally kept it to myself), and the teachers at school were doing very little to stop it. In fact, their coddling of me probably made it worse since I was seen as a teacher’s pet.

So that day in fifth grade was a real breaking point for me.

I told my parents what had happened, and they asked a lot of questions. Why? How? Didn’t anyone do anything? What were you doing? I didn’t really want to answer these questions, so they didn’t exactly make it easier for me, or make me want to tell my parents again.

I don’t recall any specific action being taken after that day, but I have to believe something did happen because I don’t have any memories of things being quite so bad ever again. In fact, by the end of middle school (around the time of my 13th birthday, to be specific), I’d found some confidence and strength, and things got much better for me.

But I never would forget those earlier days of being bullied, and how awful it felt. And even now, that one day in particular still stands out.

So you can probably imagine the visceral reaction I had while watching the new documentary Bully. Continue reading

How Far I’ve Come

30 Jun

I’ve been spending a bit of time lately with the me I used to be.

Freshman year of high school, my English teacher, Mr. Montgomery, assigned us a class project to begin keeping journals.

I was so into it that when the official assignment was over, I kept on writing for myself.

I checked in almost daily, beginning each entry with “Hey Mont,” which was what I always said when I walked into class or saw him in the hall.

I wrote in my journal all through high school (and over the summers), and when I left for college in the fall of 1992, I left behind eight notebooks that pretty much documented my life over those four years. As you might imagine, it’s something I’m really proud of.

The collection (plus a couple of failed restarts) is one of my most significant possessions. Continue reading

One Degree of Martin

7 Sep

I suppose it’s cool knowing that I went to school with actors who have made it big.

I may not have been friends with all of these guys, but still, who doesn’t enjoy saying “I know him?”

These days, I can do that with a solid handful of folks. Continue reading

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