Meeting the Person You Wanted to Be at a Party Ten Years Later
September 21, 2015, 12:47 am
Filed under: insight | Tags:

It’s a row of glasses, never empty, but the party still veers into small talk.  Some of us knew each other way back, and the conversation gets more interesting there; years of gossip to review and compare notes on.

Recognizable, immediately (it’s been a decade), it’s her.  She’s out here, living in this part of the world.  She’s at this party, now.  It’s her. Her.

Then she was at the top of every list; she would always be one of the ones that made it.  The perfect resume: extracurriculars, references, connections, reputation.  It was obvious that grad schools would roll out the fully funded red carpet for her, that her peers loved her; everything she did just seemed right.  I was just finishing being a teenager and took note, modelling some of my own choices after what was observed, making some of the same connections.  Who to talk to, how to move in certain circles.  Before I had fully formed the conclusion that nobody gets it perfect, she represented something to become – she was one of the last people that I really remember aspiring to be like.

We started talking, she did not seem aware of my past idolization.  Thank god.

She did make it all the way through and is now working in the field I wanted to be in.  All of those gold stars really did work out into a qualification.  There was a short, sharp twinge of what if?  What if I had followed that path a little further.

“You were part of that club, right? On the student counsel?  I barely remember.  I must have been drinking a lot,” she said, unironically.

“Yeah, I switched out the year after you graduated.”  We talked about what I ended up doing instead.

“Huh, yeah.  Do you like your job now?”  She asked.  I answered honestly, which is to say, not really.

She suddenly revealed regret having ever pursued grad school, let alone all the way through.  A flurry of things were mentioned – student debt, not really liking work now.  She was deeply, visibily unhappy as she talked about it all.  I didn’t know what to say.  You were supposed to be everything I had missed out on.  She suddenly backed up, the alcohol maybe momentarily clearing to remind her that this was personal information shared with a stranger.  Back to small talk, and eventually we both shuffled on. Later I would throw up in a sink and likely secure my disinvitation to all future parties at this residence, albeit not feeling terrible about this as an overall outcome of the evening.

There isn’t really vindication in correcting these perceptions, or finding out what I had imagined wasn’t so great in reality.  When I was younger, a significant part of my time was spent imagining what things would be like – what it would be like to be other people, what it would be like to go certain places, how it would be to have certain skills or abilities.  There was a sense that there were good things just beyond the horizon.  This fell away, lost to the pragmatism of adulthood and experience.  The thing about believing less in magic is that it is the belief in magic that conjures it up.


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