Countdown to Reunion, Part 1 - Self-Loathing
In a few weeks I'll pack a suitcase, hop on a plane and revisit the site of some of my most alcohol-infused years. The time has come (and quickly!)...My 5 Year College Reunion. Ah, college: never in your life will you pack so much knowledge into your brain while at the same time slowly destroying it. Oh sure, Cornell isn't known for its party school mentality, but thousands of overworked, high strung, sleep-deprived, overprivileged kids can get shitfaced just as easily as a bunch of bikini-clad U of A students...they'll just be paler, pudgier and feel more entitled while they do it. Plus, unlike their State School peers, when they wake up hungover, shirt stained with their own vomit (but collar still up!), the overwhelming pressure of years of expectations will force them to get up, go to class and actually try to make use of their $36 thousand a year tuition. Maybe.
So in three weeks, these former valedictorians, honor rollers, scholarship and fellowship-honorees, inventors, scientists, concert pianists, math whizzes and athletes who slipped through the admissions process (Cornell University Track & Field rules!) will gather together in Upstate New York to try to reclaim their youth. Most of the crowd will be your typical 26 year-old Cornell graduate: The New Yorker. The girls, clad in all black, carrying the requisite Louis Vuitton bag-of-the-moment and donning Chanel shades with huge "C"s on either side. The men, 30 pounds heavier, hoping the untucking of their Polo shirts will hide 5 years of happy hours, weekend binges and a disdain for exercise of any kind. They'll hug, kiss each other on both cheeks (European-style!) and compare careers. They'll start by bemoaning their 70-hour work weeks but smile and chuckle when they list the benefits of their staggering paychecks. They'll discuss their Roth IRAs and say things like "I'm considering diversifying my portfolio." One will flash her glittering engagement ring while another announces plans to remodel the kitchen in his newly purchased home in Hoboken. Gathered at their old haunts, Ithaca Pale Ales and Stella Artois' in hand, all will curse their now inadequate livers and embarrassingly low tolerances, then goad each other on, yelling "drink through it!"
Of course, not everyone will be a wealthy, investment-banking, newly engaged success story. No, there are always those few sad, lost souls who chose the road less taken. Those poor, mindless fools who didn't use influential alumni to land a good job, didn't major in something that teaches marketable skills, didn't pursue a career that actually values a 3.8 GPA and a wide range of extracurriculars, didn't even consider going to Business School to camouflage their professional confusion and fear of the future. Fiscally retarded, professionally stunted ass-hats who dream of a career filled with passion and creativity, limitless in its scope and its vacation days.
I, being one of these ass-hats, will be giving myself a pre-reunion pep-talk, Jack Handey style. I imagine it will go a little something like this...
"Sarah: you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggonit, people like you. Your LA lifestyle is fun! Exciting! Everchanging and evolving! You don't have set vacation days or even set workdays! Sure, your salary is laughable and the chances of succeeding in your chosen "career" are one in three million, but life is all about fun, fun, fun! Right? Yeah, you can barely afford the flight back to Ithaca to attend your reunion, but once you get there think of the stories you'll have to tell everyone! Parties with movie stars! Lazy weekday afternoons spent drinking poolside at a hip hotel! Spur-of-the-moment trips to far away concerts and sporting events taken without leaving an "out-of-office" message! You don't even have your own office to be "out of"! Haha! Youth! Life! Passion! Sure, each and every workday is another 8 hours on auto-pilot, with any given task requiring less than 1% of your brain. Fine, your heart is deflated each time you see someone on TV, in a magazine, at an audition, doing what you should be--could be--doing, but aren't. But hey, you've met David Hasselhoff! You can wear jeans and a Cubs visor to work! Haha...you scoff at the thought of business professional attire and 7am alarm clock settings. You're wild and free and livin' the dream! Okay, so no one thought you'd be this poor and unaccomplished by your mid-twenties. Yeah, maybe you're a huge disappointment to your parents, who imagined they'd be done helping you pay your bills by 26. But look at the great big wide world laid out in front of you, waiting to be shaken and moved and changed! You can do it! It's not too late! Just because most people in LA your age have already hosted a few shows, signed with an agent, written a touching memoir, dated a soap star, made a sex tape, shot a bikini calendar and consistently spend more money per week on blow than you do on rent, doesn't mean you're a failure. Hey, get back here. C'mon...don't cry. Listen, you haven't even slept with anyone influential yet. I'm not saying you should, just reminding you that you haven't really put your whole self into this thing. Give that moral compass of yours a little directional nudge. Go out to dinner with the creepy producer, roofie yourself, wake up in the morning remembering nothing and watch your career begin to soar! Hooray! Vacations in Aspen and red carpet arrivals. Interviews with the QB in the locker room and nationwide book tours. That second home in the South of France! There, feel better now? Good. Now take a couple of those diet pills and get to the gym so you can make it to LA Tan before they close. No one's gonna care how funny you are if you're fat and pale, Sarah. Especially the rich, successful, well-adjusted people at the reunion."