Lying in bed last night, listening to music low on my AirPods, the lights as dim as can be, I somehow started thinking about my junior high school and high school years with an emotional lucidness that made me inexplicably misty-eyed.
I mean, I didn’t give a crap about those school years, especially high school, which was a cliquish crucible of morons, meatheads and motley malcontents. Not to mention the perennially sunny, laughing, smiling ones, who only made the experience more of a four-year inferno.
But last night I was thinking about the good ones, the handful of cool, kind, thoughtful kids who were caring and courteous, interested and concerned. They were fonts of effortless empathy, tolerant of my long hair and penchant for metal, my love of books and Woody Allen, and my dark streak that could express itself as juvenile misanthropy.
Simone, Susie, Ann, Todd, Jamie, Jennifer … I could name them all — about 15 total — but there’s no need. Yet I won’t leave out my 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Condon, whose radical, rigorous teachings literally changed my life.
These people moved me, gave me hope for my fellow humans. Like Leah, who brought me back a big, silly Mickey Mouse keychain from Disneyland. Or Todd, who saved me when I was about to get my ass kicked. Or Ann, who consoled me when I was suffering existential gloom. Or Susie, who wrote a lovely note on the back of a black-and-white Woody Allen postcard. And so forth. How great are they?
I don’t know why this all came rushing back to me one random night. It was odd and overwhelming. Maybe a particular song on the AirPods triggered lightly buried memories. Maybe I was feeling sentimental. Maybe I took too much Clonazepam.
It’s unusual but not uncharacteristic, such a mood. I can get sappy about people, as we all can. But I tend to view our species from a glass half-empty stance. My faith in us is shaky. I can be hopelessly pessimistic. Years ago, Apple offered free engravings on its iPods. I chose Sartre’s famous maxim: “Hell is other people.” I thought it was funny. Sort of.
Last night was eye-opening. It just reminded me: People are terrible. People are sublime.