A PhD, a reporter, and a rodeo clown

I was not the best looking. Nor was I the most likely to succeed. My only distinction: I was the high school senior male with the coolest car. At least that’s how the yearbook read. In a town where muscle men took pride in their muscle cars, you might think that was a great honor. Looking back, it was more embarassing than anything else.

Last Saturday was the first high school reunion for my class since we graduated a decade ago. Though I had been looking forward to it for a while. I didn’t go. Long trips on short notice don’t work well in my line of work unless there is some kind of death or political firestorm involved. And then I’m not paying for the trip.

Today, one of my two best friends from high school and his wife sent me a detailed accounting of the events, the people, and their progress. It was Reunion Recon at its finest. I almost feel like I was there…without all the self-loathing and fear of humiliation.

The report, while quite enlightening, was far from surprising. That Randy Young became a rodeo clown is no great surprise. He always had a flair for the dramatic and he was always quite agile. That Amy Hobbs is about to get her PhD in literature is also no great surprise. She was always a smart cookie with an eye for good writing.

And yet, there are still things that make your nostalgic nerve twitch. An old girlfriend has a seven month-old baby. A quiet girl from school is now a lean, mean, military intelligence machine. The people you used to drink Coke with are now…um… Adult Drinkers like you.

I remember a night 12 years ago that all of that would’ve seemed like silly talk. Most of that night is only fit for my memory…or imagination. But children, the military…even hard core drinking were farwaway thoughts. Something that didn’t fit into whatever I envisioned for the future.

Now some friends are on their second marriages. They have stepchildren.

I never really felt popular in high school. I had a great but small circle of friends who I still treasure today. But there were a lot of weeks I felt very small in that very small place.

I guess I can only wonder now whether I would’ve felt so small at that reunion. A TV reporter in a mid-size southeastern city doesn’t have much frame of reference when it comes to success is a high school classmate’s eyes.

Then again…when I graduated I thought I wanted to be an FBI agent.

What the hell did I know?

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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