When you were in high school, were you a part of the “in” crowd or were you not? Now me—I was anything but the “in” crowd. I was the dork-dweeb invisible face with glasses in the crowd who wasn’t a great student who was not cut out for sports, the Math Club, Chess Club, Pom Poms, Science Club, Thespian Society, National Honor Society, Symphonic Band, Key Club, Junior Civitan, or the Student Government Association. What’s more, my mother hadn’t the faintest idea how to dress me.
That said—were you “in” or were you out, and—why was it so important? There were the super jocks who participated in football, baseball, soccer, hockey, and basketball. They were, for the most part, good looking and popular. They never spoke to guys like me. There were the cheerleaders—the pretty babes. Ditto for the sports jocks—the muscle guys who attracted the cheerleaders.
And me? I was an avid bowler with a 190 average in sanctioned league play. Cheerleaders would never be interested in a bowler dude like me.
The strange irony of the “in” crowd is what a lot of them turned out to be after high school. Fully expecting them to have entered college, the military, or vocational school and the adult world as successful grownups, I was stunned to see a lot of them at my tenth high school reunion in the mid-1980s who never grew beyond high school. Most hadn’t left my hometown, were still working the kinds of odd jobs teenagers do, and they were still hanging out in shopping center parking lots where we all hung out in our teen years.
These highly visible socialites never advanced beyond high school.
They were the people who laughed at and teased guys like me in the hallowed halls of my high school. Or worse—never noticed us at all. We never came up on their radar. They were the ones you’d speak to in the hall and they’d walk past you like you didn’t exist. While you were driving an old worn out “hand me down” automobile Mom used to drive, they all had new cars. One of them had a new 1970 Chevelle SS 396 who would cruise our hangouts and profile under the lights for everyone to see. Another one had a 1969 GTO Judge in blazing orange as a great attention getter. They all cruised the hangouts in their new rides with a deep need for attention.
A decade later, they weren’t all they seemed to be in high school. They never grew up. They never launched. A lot of them looked bewildered and lost. So, what about that? Why did they never launch? My belief is they were never emotionally ready for a world beyond high school where they would have to prove themselves in steady employment and growth. Their “social” security never extended beyond high school where they had been a big fish in a small pond for most of their lives. Self confidence vanished amid the adult world where they were scarcely noticed.
Admittedly, the adult world is intimidating when you’re fresh out of high school. The summer after I graduated from high school, I was paralyzed with no idea what I wanted to do as my life’s work. It was when my mother delivered a speech about my being an unemployed bum I began to think about my future. I worked a job as an administrative assistant for a time, then, began to really think about where I was going.
My launch pad was the United States Air Force where I found direction and adulthood. The sports jocks and cheerleaders remained sports jocks and cheerleaders because they never received direction from parents and mentors. Many of them continue to flounder as we enter our twilight years.
As baby boomer parents and grandparents, the greatest gift you can give your offspring is guidance. Mentor a young person, instill self confidence, and give them a fighting chance at survival and prosperity as responsible adults.