It doesn't seem so long ago, but yes it really was twenty years ago. 1979 had just begun and I was in the middle of my Senior year of High School. I have quite a few memories of 1979. I was about to turn 18 in February, and turning 18 was a big deal in Ohio in 1979. Back then 18 year olds could legally purchase low alcohol beer. It also meant admission to the Cleveland club scene and all the bands and dancing that came with that. In 1979, the Cleveland Agora and Pebody's Cafe were the places to go for live Music any day of the week. I must have gone out every Friday and Saturday night of my senior year, and even more often after school let out. I don't know where I found the energy.
As summer neared, the High School pre and post graduation parties increased in frequency. We had parties on nights we didn't go out to listen to bands. We even skipped school toward the end of the year and had a party on the beach durring the day. Drugs and alcohol were always a part of the celebration. It's funny how drinking has become such an unimportant part of my life now. Back then drinking was a social lubrication, because without it I was a wall flower. After imbibing I gained confidence, or more likely I forgot to worry about how I thought others were perceiving me. Now days, who cares! Teenage insecurity is notorious.
Now, twenty years later I want to recall my dreams and compare my life to them. I know what I was dreaming back then, because I wrote about it. If fact, I copied some of my twenty year old writings onto the web so others could benefit from them. I don't know if anyone really cares, but if one young person learns from my experience they will be the stronger for it.
From graduation night on the members of my High School class have changed. I have changed as well, and one can only hope it is toward the dream. On graduation night, as we walked into the gymnasium to receive our honors I learned my friend, Harold, had gotten a neighborhood girl pregnant. Back in 1979, this would have been the end of my dream, and I mourned the loss of a friend. I surely believed his dream had died. I don't really even know much of what happened to him since that day. I know he became an elevator/refrigeration apprentice. I called him several times and only spoke to his mother. He never returned my calls. To me he had died.
As my life went on, I attended College, moved to Texas, moved to Germany and finally moved to California. California was part of my dream. In my young Ohio mind I saw California as the promised land, where I could live by the ocean, climb the mountains and drive to the snow if I ever wanted to see snow again. If it wasn't for the working part of my dream, I would have time to do all that and more. We still go to the ocean and the mountains from time to time, but family is also an important part of my life. In fact life wouldn't be the same without my wife and kids. They were part of my dream - its all in the timing.
When I was in High School we had a very eclectic class. What I mean is many of the students had multiple interests and crossed many of the stereotypical boundaries. We had athletes and geeks who did drugs and drank alcohol. We had smart athletes, we had popular geeks and we had brainy blondes. I crossed all those lines. I hung out with the Audio-visual club, so we could listen to Monty-Python during study hall. I worked for the newspaper where I wrote a column and took pictures. I played soccer, ran cross country, ran track and was on the swim team. I went to parties and from time to time smoked dope. I prided myself on my resistance to falling into a click, because I thought it would be the death knell to one of my activities. In fact we had a very weak click structure in our class. And, as it turns out, the teachers hated our lack of clicks. I have been told since graduation teachers hated our class, because they couldn't control us through our popular click -- because we didn't have one.
I know some of my classmates are doing well, and I know others are hanging in there and some are dead. The deaths always get to me. The first person in my class to die was Donald. We were never very close through out school, but I always knew about him through things he did. He was in my elementary school, and he had a rough time. At least I thought he had a rough time. He had one leg shorter than the other. He had a leg brace. Thinking back on it, he seemed to manage quite well running and playing some of the roughest playground games. After we graduated, he invited me to his graduation party. I was surprised, seeing we hadn't really spoken to each other for the 12 years we were in school together. That night I talked to him for a while. After that night I remember thinking to myself, "he's quite a nice guy, to bad I hadn't gotten to know him better." A couple of years later I heard he had been killed in a traffic accident.
Six months ago, a closer friend, Bill, committed suicide. He was smart, ... and stupid as well I suppose. When I heard about his death I thought back over twenty years to another time. It was my first time to a disco. I went there with a bunch of people, Harold being one of them. Harold and I began to pursue the girls and Harold had his eye on a girl I believed he had little chance with. She was a clean cut prissy girl named Laura. Harold convinced himself he needed to be cool to hook her. Against my advice, Harold decided to light up a cigarette and ask her to dance. Well, even now twenty years later the outcome was predictable. Harold was embarrassed and distraught. He began to talk about suicide. Maybe getting his girlfriend pregnant was the suicide of his dream. I told him to take the ups and downs in life as an adventure, if you kill yourself when you are down how will you ever experience the high points of life again. I don't know if he listened to me, but I liked what I said. I always remember that time when my life is heading down with no bottom in sight. Its to bad I could not have been there when Bill was thinking about suicide.
Bill was smart. He was in the top 5 of our High School class, and number 2 in my college class. Unfortunately, I may have been a bad influence in his life, and that really bothers me. I always knew I wanted to be a scientist. I didn't know if I wanted to be a Physicist, Chemist or Biologist, but I knew I loved science. Bill liked science as well, but he didn't have a dream, or if he did it wasn't a driving dream. He went to Case Western Reserve, which is a very good science and engineering school. I went to a smaller liberal arts college down the road. I liked my school, and soon I found my way into the Physics lab helping out and earning drinking money. Bill was disappointed with his experience. My enthusiasm overwhelmed him, and soon Bill enrolled in John Carroll. Bill wasn't much happier at JCU, but he stuck it out anyway. He did very well, and moved on to graduate school, as I did. We lost direct contact, but I heard about him through his sister. He switched departments while he was there, obviously unhappy with his first choice again. After graduation he had difficulty finding a job. All along he was fighting depression. I just think he never found the right perspective.
Anyway, here we are twenty years later and with somewhat fewer than our graduating class sitting somewhere thinking about those days. They are thinking about decisions they made along the way, some were good some not so good. The decisions each of us made so far has propelled our roller coaster as it travels the ups and downs of our lives. We scream as our coaster drops from the highest precipice to the lowest valley, but it shoots up once again after the trouble passes. Keep your eye on your dream and always steer toward it when you make those decisions in your life.