These posts are related to my time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel (UNC), specifically the School of Library and Information and Science (SILS), where I graduated with a Master’s of Science in Information Science in 2004. I also received my Bachelor’s degree in linguistics at UNC in 2002.
…circa February 2001 (pre-Justinsomnia), after UNC beat Duke. Sadly Duke won the NCAA championship that year, but UNC came back in 2005. I was inspired to post these shots from the ground after seeing this time-lapse video from above: Franklin Street after the victory.
You know the one thing that strikes me looking at these shots 8 years later (other than the fact that I can’t believe it has been 8 years)? Is how few people had cameras. Like almost nobody had a camera. Come to think of it, at the time my digital camera was only two months old. In the pictures I took, I think I saw maybe one throwaway film cam and few pro rigs from the Daily Tar Heel. Everyone else was just in the moment.
Well there’s nothing quite like a ten year high school reunion to trigger some reflection.
Most of my conversations on Saturday night would start with where I live, San Francisco, how long I’ve been there, three years, and what I’m doing now, web development at a startup. Living outside of Texas I felt was an accomplishment in and of itself, as the majority of my former classmates (hallmates really, in a graduating class of 500 I was only ever in class with a fraction of them) still reside in and around Austin. Of that I’m told roughly 160 had RSVPed. Several people had made it out of Texas but eventually came back. A few were living in a few major cities around the country (NY, LA, SF), though I’m sure that number was under-represented, as that’s precisely the subgroup least likely to return. Naturally I was there to buck that trend.
What has led me to where I am now, over the last ten years?
I keep thinking about this question. It’s the essential part of knowing someone that was obviously missing from all of the conversations I had that night.
Over the last ten years, I’ve had zero contact with any of the people that were there (other than Casey). The amazing thing about the human brain is that I recognized at least 90% of people. Afterwards it kind of made me nauseous to think about, as if I were living through a strange psychology experiment, having severed all ties with everyone I knew at age 18, only to meet up with all of them in a bar ten years later. And then walking out of that bar at midnight, knowing full well that I’ll probably never see any of those people again.
When I graduated from high school in 1998, no one had cellphones, and very few of my classmates had email addresses or knew about the web. I had an AOL account, which I quickly abandoned when I received my college email address (along with every other entering freshman). So none of the primary means one now has to stay in loose contact existed then.
When I left for college, not only did I go far away and by myself, I went completely. I never left Chapel Hill during the summer, so I never bumped into old friends doing the same. In college, I didn’t really find my groove until senior year, so I ended up tacking on two more years of grad school (which felt more like an extended undergrad). Then I stayed another year as a full time employee working at the same the job I’d had since the summer after my sophomore year.
That’s one of my internal paradoxes. I feel like I’ve really only been independent, out of school, and out on my own for the last three years (when I moved to California). But on the other hand, I’ve been working continuously for the last nine.
Social networking got really big in 2002 (some time between undergrad and grad school) but I thought it was limited (and annoying) compared to the blog I’d started around the same time, so I never joined up. And that decision alone probably shielded (or spared?) me from wave after wave of mini-reunions as old friends from high school started looking each other up, first on Friendster, and later MySpace and Facebook.
In the last few years, I’ve met back up with two people from high school, but neither of them came last weekend. I’m not sure why. I haven’t looked over my yearbook, but I can think of at least one or two other people I was really curious to see again, but they didn’t show up either. Maybe I should have made more of an effort to track them down? I probably spent most of my time that night talking to five or so people. There was at least one person I was genuinely happy to see again—it felt like no time had passed at all.
Several of the people who were couples in high school are now married. At the time they had been the model couples, the perfect couples, the supercouples. Seeing them still together really surprised me. At first glance it seemed totally natural, but at the same time it was kind of eerie. Like nothing had changed at all.
I will say this: everyone looked really good. Maybe the reunion-attending audience self-selects for people who clean up well, but you never know. The people who came could have been the ones who had hung around Pflugerville, gotten fat, gotten trashy, and aged beyond their years. But I saw none of that. Most everyone still looked youthful—just more polished, happy, and more or less comfortable. It was a reunion after all. In June. In Texas.
One of my good friends, who I happened to meet in high school, reminded me that there’d be some sort of reunion this year, and I thought to myself, “Whoa, has it already been five years?” (thinking that the default span between reunions) and then realized “Zomg! It’s been ten years since I graduated from high school.” Ten years never felt more minuscule than just now.
For most people that equates to four years of college and six years of life, and probably a good start on marriage, mortgage, and babies. I, on the other hand, extended my time at school by an additional three years, two in grad school, and one in what I refer to as “post-grad school” practically everything was the same (apartment, job, friends)—I just wasn’t going to classes. I’ve only recently felt on my own—after almost three years in California.
My feelings about high school are decidedly mixed (to put it mildly), but I wouldn’t want to be left out of the awkwardnessfest that is trying to remember the names of people I haven’t laid eyes on in ten years! And as Stephanie added, “Maybe we could parlay this into a trip down to Schlitterbahn.” I’m sure my parents would love to see me. I hope it’s not while we’re in France.
Common knowledge to those of you in Chapel Hill, but for everyone else, here are three glimpses of Carolina. On Saturday Stephanie and I walked through campus after lunch with Christy and Patrick. We started at the post office and headed towards Old West. Got drinks from the Old Well and then walked around South Building for the expansive view of Polk Place.
From there we walked through the quad past Manning Hall, where I spent 2+ years at SILS.
We walked past the Undergraduate Library, through the Pit, and into a very swankily redesigned Student Stores. Detail I loved the most: the new escalators (remember that old giant staircase?) have carolina blue rubber hand-holds.
We walked past Davis Library towards my first undergraduate dorm, Grimes, then through Coker Arboretum.
From there we walked past Spencer, where I lived for the last three years of undergrad, and finally to the Morehead Planetarium’s sundial before returning to our car.
On the way home from the grocery store, picking up some fruit for the week, I had a thought that was half a wish and half a wonder.
Why hadn’t I delayed college to continue taking sculpture classes at the Elizabet Ney Art Museum? Just to see how much farther I could have gone. Several things precluded this from happening, most prominently the desire in me to strike out on my own. But then I wonder if the opportunity had offered itself, would that have altered the landscape? I know it was never really a tangible option, those classes were just a fun diversion, they made sense in the context of my focus on art in high school. And now, (though I realize it would have been highly improbable), given the chance to take a road less traveled, to focus on art and my eye and my technical skill in the absense of so many other distractions, I might have advised my younger self differently.
I don’t remember if my last class was that spring or the summer before I left for Chapel Hill, but I do remember that it was that summer I decided I would major in art because no other “lifestyle” would be more challenging. I also remember there was a moment when I realized my school schedule ruled out taking any classes at the Ney in the foreseeable future. I felt a kind of loss. I think my dad may have recommended bringing some wax to sculpt at school that I could cast during the summers. But I never came home during the summers. I took a few art classes, but I didn’t major in art. And I haven’t done any sculpting since.