Digging Up Dirt on Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving. The time to visit your family, to give thanks for what you have; your loved ones, your health, your path in life. An opportunity to return to your old room, to dig through your old stuff, to admit that you’re glad to be outta there. And then it’s late at night and the whole house is snoring, except for you. You find yourself wide awake, dusting off a copy of your junior high yearbook, lit only by the glow of the MySpace welcome screen. You type in the first name, hit “Search,” and it begins:

Your middle-school tormentors. Still living in that town you left behind. Wait, are they still living with their parents? Ha! Their top friends – your other tormentors from junior high. You think of all the people you’ve met in your life – on a train in London, at a gig in Rome, on the playa at Burning Man, on a photoshoot in Portland, in class, at a roller derby, on LJ, that time you volunteered - and you wonder, is this tiny slice of the world the only thing they know? Yes, you decide for them. It is. With great delight, you page through photos of their greasy significant others, and their babies, with their stained bibs, who look so heavy. A sense of poetic justice settles on the story you’ve been playing in your head, in which you’re the main character in the universe. Yes – the boy who put garbage on your desk grew up to be a garbage man. You won. They lost. And you all deserve everything that you got. It’s so simple, after all.

After a while, you find that the schadenfreude has an aftertaste, and it’s not something you expected. You begin to feel melancholy, and somehow very alone. Why are you clicking on their pictures, by yourself, in the dark? You try to tell yourself that you only wanted a laugh, but there’s something there. “Does what they did still hurt me, after all these years? Why else would I need to look up their crappy pictures?” What would happen if you suddenly found one of them in a wheelchair? Is it right to laugh when maybe they lacked something you had – say, a nutruring upbringing that made you succeed? And finally, what does this impulse to raise ghosts from the past say about you?

Readers, if you’ve ever engaged in this type of “research,” fess up. What did you find – and how did it make you feel?

76 Responses to “Digging Up Dirt on Thanksgiving Eve”

  1. DJ Velveteen Says:

    Or worse: what makes this person ecstatically happy at having three kids and a garbage truck? What is that thing, that its absence in my heart would make me feel acutely horrible when not trying desperately to carve out something new?

  2. Meridian Says:

    Haven’t we all?
    Half of the evil people I went to school with are stuck in sunny north Queensland (meaning the hot, humid, hole that is Townsville) going to the most pathetic university in the world. Some of them dropped out to become pregnant and face manslaughter charges for shit that went down in high school, others have boyfriends (that i used to date) who leach off their parents and have no money of their own.

    I feel completely vindicated whenever I see things like this. All the shit that I went through in high school doesn’t even matter anymore… no one even cares what marks you got.

    I ran into one of the biggest bitches from school on Oxford st one day (that is the main indie club strip in Sydney) and she was actually nice to me. finishing high school brings everybody to the same level and then leaves it to them to build themselves up again, this time based on merit and not on being a bitch or having a loius viutton pencil case (private school?)

  3. Ms Constantine Says:

    Although this reply is probably not written in the tone you expected these replies to be in, I can’t help thinking of a scene in the Kiwi movie Eagle vs Shark (with Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords) where he he goes back to his hometown to fight his high school bully only to find he is now in a wheel chair. He’s been “training” hard…you really have to watch the scene.

  4. Nadya Says:

    Hey guys, thanks for your insights so far. Ms. Constantine, that clip is TOTALLY hilarious! Wish my computer had working speakers, but it was funny even on mute.

    So going back to people… what’s amazing is that one time, the tables turned. My junior high school tormenter actually looked up ME. It was this kid who wouldn’t let me get through to my locker in the morning. He and this big herd of junior high boys would call me so many names as I tried to get to my locker that I dreaded it every morning. He made fun of me every chance he got – called me ugly, etc. ANYWAY, years later, maybe 9 years after I last saw his face in Junior High, he wrote me this pathetic, apologetic, heartfelt email. He was all like “I just found you online and you seem so creative and everything worked out for you, and I love your photography and I am so, so, so sorry for how I treated you, it’s totally shameful and unforgivable.” He went on and on. He really felt bad. My friends were like, “you told him to fuck right off, right?” But I actually wrote and told him I forgave him.

  5. Filipe Says:

    oh Nadya, what can I say about them? I think they had that special need to hate and treat us bad.

  6. Annie Says:

    I’ve gone through that same process, but the part that strikes me hardest is how I’m always left wondering what let these people be so content staying in our small hometown and existing within the same middle/high school circles, whereas I had to get out before I killed everyone and then myself. Is there something wrong with them? Something wrong with me?

  7. Nadya Says:

    Filipe… yeah. But it’s weird. It’s not like I walk around and dwell on it every single day. I don’t feel like I’m tormented by the past. It’s not like “why didn’t they like me?” I get that part. Just that maybe once a year, I go on this weird rampage and try to dig things up. It’s like this weird ritual. Almost OCD.

    Annie, yeah. That’s really what bothers me. My thought process goes like this:

    FIRST: “What let these people be content with staying in their small town and breeding? Haha!” THEN: “What if they actually know a happiness that I will never know?” Etc. THEN: “But wait… I am happy.” AND THEN: “What if I just think I’m happy, but actually I’m miserable, and THEY’RE happy?” It’s almost comical.

  8. Jeskah Says:

    Okay, so not entirely true, but in a similar vein, I was at our single goth club here in Perth, Australia, (which I admit, I go to more out of habit than anything else now) and whilst dancing I turn my head and see the boy that made the most fun of me or being a goth in high school.

    And he was having the best time.

    It fills me with spiteful glee to see people stuck with kids, and awful jobs. But it fills me with more glee to see that people can actually change and grow the fuck up.

  9. Filipe Russo Says:

    this goes to what keeps you weird.

  10. Mil (not signed in) Says:

    We’ve already chatted about this over tacos, but I’ve given it a bit more thought…

    Although I’ve never purposefully looked up any of my own bullies of yore (my memory is appalling and I don’t remember the last names of any of them), the offenders in question have actually sought me out and made nice. I echo the satisfaction and smugness you address above, because inevitably they’re all up the duff, divorced, and have MySpace pages covered in Ohio State University banners.

    Having said that, I find myself envying that sort of simplicity, and for all this fire in my belly has helped me to achieve, they’ve found happiness in even the simplest of things and I think there’s a lot of value in that. While you and I set about taking over the world, as it were, they’re looking forward to a BBQ just as much. Maybe there’s something we could learn from that.

    Remember, most of them probably don’t even want what we have or they, themselves, would get passports, start a band, or otherwise devote a massive portion of their time to attempt to justify their existence. I don’t think most of them would trade lives with us if they had the chance.

    Perhaps our drive even stems from the bullying itself, that we strive so hard to make our existence ‘meaningful’, that we feel the need to leave something behind that’s greater than us.

    So who’s really laughing?

  11. What's in a name anyways? Says:

    Some people make other people feel smaller in order to make themselves feel bigger. Generally these people paint themselves into a corner. The truth is they were never big. I decided not to join facebook because I feel it’s like a yearbook that never ends. My friends and my sisters made a group called the “so and so” fan club. Even without participating my life is now displayed for anyone to view. As repayment I’ve decided to make videos of everyones pages, later to be sent to their children once they turn thirteen…Viva la resistance!

  12. Mil (not signed in) Says:

    ps: That might come of condescending (how quaint, these plebeians). Probably because I’m too busy doing other things at this moment to take the time to find a more diplomatic way of putting it. I actually don’t mean it to be by any measure, for the record.

  13. Alice Says:

    I rarely hunt down past tormentors’ various online profiles, but I DO inadvertently hear of how their lives turned out. One particularly nasty fellow couldn’t take the lack of schedule in college, and is still living at home to feel secure; at least three unsavory female former classmates had babies before they were 20. Add to this the fact that we all came from the snootiest of snooty private country schools and you’ve got some real laughs.

    Thing is, I haven’t experienced that nasty rebound feeling at all! I’ll put that down to my relative youth and abnormally high spite levels, but for now I’m just basking in schadenfreude!

  14. Jennifer dG Says:

    My writing rival in high school — not an enemy or tormentor, but someone I competed with — seems to have gotten a couple of dead end copyediting jobs instead of going on to be a great journalist, as everyone thought he would. I actually felt bad when I discovered this, and when he told me, “I suppose one of us had to end up doing something cool.”

    I wonder, though, did I feel bad because I hoped he would succeed or because in the end the competition meant so little? I didn’t have to become someone great or important to “win” — it’s as if the discovery diminished us both in my mind.

  15. A Says:

    This works for me and I’m only 3 years out. However… one girl from my grade is a catwalk model, one boy is a hairdresser for Toni and Guy in london, 6 people are soon to finish their medical degrees, one girl wrote for the Australian newspapers from the Olympics…

  16. Infamous Amos Says:

    God hates everyone in high school. That is a scientific fact. Its why we have high school to begin with.

    The weird kids dread looking eye to eye with the popular kids, and the popular kids perpetually lose their minds dealing with the self imposed strains of popularity and social hierarchy.

    Its all a matter of what you think people expect of you verses what you expect for yourself. Most of the people I know who stayed at home were never stricken with the profound desire to run as far away from it all like myself and the rest of my fellow freaks and geeks.

    Patton Oswalt said it best, “When you are born in a small town, you are given a present from God. That present is ‘The Test of the Small Town’, and you pass the test when you stand up one day and scream ‘I’M LEAVING, BEFORE I KILL EVERYONE AND THEN MYSELF!’ If you do that, you pass. You fail when you say ‘I’ll get a job at the Sipco, and fill my truck up for free!”

    I know for a fact that getting the fuck out gave me a purpose, a drive, and a reason to make my life portable and let the world and its many wonders have its way with me, so to speak. The rest of them, the ones that stayed, I get the feeling saw so much more expected of them when they were younger than I did, be it accurate or otherwise, and maybe just thought that aiming high wasn’t an option. I always got the feeling that some of the people who made fun of me did it not because they wanted to, but because they thought they had to.

    I will admit that I feel a sense of pride in knowing my life is infinitely cooler than the current lives of the soulless monkeys I knew in high school, but the hate and the self importance is just what gets me out of bed and out the door. When you start to live for what you are, and not for what you want to leave behind, then the locker room hazing and name calling won’t even enter your mind.

    …that being said, I’m going to my high school reunion in a space suit and top hat, and to hell with anyone who dares to call me on my shit.

  17. creativename Says:

    I actually look up the awkward and geeky nice girls I knew and am often happy that they turned out to be gorgeous girls. Nothing like the real life ugly duckling story.

  18. BlueAnchorNatasha Says:

    This entry really does hit home for most of us in some way, especially the way you’ve written it. I too was teased throughout grade school, the kind of kid who had highwater pants and didnt even know what that meant, until the 9th grade when I stabbed a jock with my hair stick (middle of my Japanese phase) for gleeking on my books, and suddenly people discovered I had a back bone after all. From then on I understood that I didnt have to anyone’s crap and I never have since. Ive been fortunate enough to learn how to demand respect since then, and Ive also been fortunate enough to have been raised by a man who demanded that I act like the adult my teenage self was supposed to be in his eyes. So I left Colorado and all of its useless, lame, pot-smoking hippies for California. And every time I come across another former classmate via myspace, I discover they are either married, pregnant and/or alcoholic/druggies or any combination of the above, and I am SO thankful that I did have the upbringing that I did, and that I got OUT of there when I did. So I didnt end up like them. Sometimes, when I find someone I really hated, I feel a deep self-satisfaction that I have the chance to better myself, and have done wonders so far and continue to do so, while theyre stuck with no way out. For the most part, I just pity them.

  19. Vespers Says:

    Heh. I only did that once, when I visited one of my best friends in California. We went and looked up the kids from our old elementary school back in NC. It was pretty hilarious, I admit; Although, the chicks I had crushes on back then grew up just gorgeous. I have the best taste in ladies, it’s true. heh.

  20. la mome neant Says:

    Crucial entry. Coilhouse, stop making me think, it hurts!
    I did engaged in such researches. Didn’t find anything interessant, but some Facebook friend request can be a total puzzle to me. Why do they want to hear from me? We didn’t even get along in highschool!

  21. alumiere Says:

    i haven’t actively looked anyone from hs up, but i remember being endlessly tormented and given shit for pretty much everything

    i did however experience one major schedenfraude moment – i was visiting my mom and her family one holiday season and went to the mall (ick gak bleh) to pick up a last minute gift for an unexpected guest

    at the waldenbooks there was one of my biggest tormentors (now 20?) looking 35 and fat and unable to successfully ring up a simple sale getting chewed out by her boss (and from what i overheard she’d been there for months and still couldn’t run the register without regular fuckups)

    i mean – come on – retail is so easy if you can’t manage that after even a hs education you’re fucked for life

    i otoh was not stuck in a dead-end job in the middle of nowhere – granted i was broke and spending part of a holiday gift i’d been given to buy a gift for someone else – but i was paying my way through college, getting an education in both the intellectual sense and in life experiences

    and 20+ years later i can honestly still feel that moment of wow (glee at how far she’d fallen and yet pity/embarassment for her at the same time)

    so while that may make me a somewhat bad person, the way i was treated back then definitely played a huge part in why i am the freak i am today and in hindsight i guess i do feel sorry for the people who never got it and tried somewhere/thing new – but it does feel right somehow – as if karma has come around to bite them in the ass

  22. Phizz Says:

    I do this kind of research every couple of years or so, for the purpose of motivation.

    I was such a freak at high school that the other freaks didn’t want me to hang out with them because it’d worsen their reputation! High school was a daily struggle for me, and unlike the children who tormented me – most of whom did have loving, stable childhood and families who supported them through university – I escaped home at 16 and had to figure the rest out on my own.

    And now, as an adult, with a degree and living abroad, I find it somehow motivating to see the bullies from my teenage years still living in the same back-water suburb of our youth, with the same circle of friends, fat babies and ugly husbands and dead end jobs that they’ll never leave. These people grew up with the world at their feet and they chose complacency and small-mindedness.

    I use this as a reminder that the struggle was worth it, and makes me grateful for the place in my life that I am now.

  23. jason Says:

    i’m kind of on both sides of this. i was the outcast, but i’m also the one who’s still stuck in the small town. no kids, but a shit job and still living at home. the urge to not be like everyone else, but none of that nurturing upbringing or supporting family. i was too busy surviving bullies in high school to get decent grades, so i didn’t get to go to anything more than a junior college. now those kids have a few things i might want, and i have a few things they’ll never have. but we’re all stuck here together.

  24. Kitty Napalm Says:

    I had lots of friends in junior school, including a best friend who abandoned me the minute we went to high school. She joined up with this sudden click of popular girls. The girls were bitchy in that non-direct way – sniggered jokes at my expense, etc. In addition they dated the popular guys whose behaviour was a lot worse. I went through five years of shit because I was different; remarks about my weight were one of the causes for my later anorexia.

    Now fast forward a few years and I’ve definitely been a case of Ugly Duckling syndrome – I recovered from my ED and learned to be more comfortable with how I look, began modelling and landed myself a gorgeous ‘alternative’ guy who I love. I add my modelling photos to Facebook and who comes out of the woodwork? Old rivals bearing compliments and kissing my feet. I just laugh, especially when I recall how they treated me and how they’re doing now – still stuck in the same old place with four kids. I’m not saying they’re not happy, but I’d rather have a little life experience before I settle like that (one of the girls got pregnant in school at age 14). I just look back and wonder why I envied them.

  25. David Forbes Says:

    Yes, I have. I’ve done the same for some of my rivals in college, which was also pretty socially awkward (I was a bit of a late bloomer).

    It was a mixed bag. I found plenty of things like what you described above. The huge, vicious kid I smashed with a chair when I’d finally had enough is rotting in a dead-end nicely. The fundamentalist Christian goody-goody (more a competitor than tormentor) graduated college with flying colors and is now starting out as a political lawyer, doing her best every day to strip gay people of their rights and find some technicality that will crush free thought. I contented myself that she will live to see her causes defeated one by one.

    At the same time, several of my close high school friends, the “small band of outcast” types, are still in the same place too. They couldn’t quite make it, or felt they had to take care of a family member. Maybe they got married early, got sick, found drugs too easily. It was a lesson to me that one of the only things I can know about life is that there are no assurances of how it will turn out.

    This sort of sneak peek back is not something I’m proud of. All of us, I think, want the past to be just that.

    It’s never easy or comfortable to admit that it still has its hooks in, just a bit.

  26. Nadya Says:

    I love the responses to this so far. I’m amazed at how many different perspectives emerged on this. Thank you for your candor, everyone. It takes a lot to admit that you do this thing, because in some ways, it’s an ugly thing to do.

    Jason: When I wrote this post, I was very worried that there would be people who would read it and say “hey, wait a minute, I’m still stuck in that small town, working a shit job.” I was worried that they’d feel disrespected, and I hope that you – and others – did not get that sense. You can be stuck in the crappiest place/at the crappiest job for reasons outside your control, but as long as you’re an inquisitive person, books or the web or having some creative outlet can put the world’s greatest wonders at your fingertips, and eventually you can get out. The whole “shitty town/shitty job” thing was more of an allegory for their type of mindset. The real difference is that they can’t see past what’s in front of them, and you can.

    Kitty Napalm: This is why I love the modern phenomenon of alt modeling/photography. If those girls wanted pictures like the ones you have, they probably wouldn’t even be able to get them, even if they offered to pay.

    David: Yeah, that’s the sad part. You want everyone who was in the shit with you to turn out to be a rock star. If only life worked that way…

    Phizz: I love the fact that you totally own it. You’re right, it is a totally motivating thing! It motivates me too. It pushes me to make my path diverge from their path even more. But I find that if I don’t stop and close the browser at a certain point, that’s when it starts to feel bad. But that’s a problem with me and the Internet in general.

    alumiere: As someone who fucked up at the register a lot in my life (hello, RadioShack!) I actually feel really bad for that girl, based on the scene you’re describing. But if she tormented you, she’s totally a bitch and she deserves it. Still – working in retail is actually a hard job. I’d have a harder time there than at my current desk job.

    la mome neant – I get those, too. I’ve sent out a few friend requests in my time to people that I may not have gotten along with 100% of the time, but who I still found interesting in high school.

    Natasha: You go, O-ren Ishii!

    creativename: Agreed. I tried to look up the most geeky people I went to school with, and couldn’t find any of them. Maybe they completely reinvented themselves…

    Infamous Amos: That’s a great quote. Looks like we passed the test. :)

    Jennifer: Why do you say that the competition meant so little? You went on to have an amazing career in publishing. Maybe it was different for you, I know that having these types of competitive relationships in high school definitely got the ball rolling for me. For example, I had a lit-mag rivalry that helped me think about magazines in a solid way, very early on.

    Alice: You went to a snooty country private school? WOW. I’m sure there are some great stories to tell!

    Jeskah: I love your story. It warms my heart. Most people would be like “fuck you, get out of my scene!” but I really like the inclusive attitude you had towards that kid.

    Milly (tired, running out of brain juice): All good points, but we didn’t have tacos that night. I was supposed to bring tacos, but the tacos were gone by the time I left to see you. I can tell you were hungry when you wrote that comment. Love ya!

  27. Alicia Says:

    I have totally indulged in looking up former tormentors and, yes, they are still living at home with babies and beer bellies, but I find the assumption that everyone reading this site has an awesome, rockin’, creative, fulfilling and prosperous life interesting.
    Surely there are plenty of FAILED authors, actors, and artists out there who, like me, find the perverse pleasure of seeing how mundane everyone else turned out to be pretty shallow when I try viewing my own Myspace (if I had one) through their eyes.
    Is my rotting away in poverty, still fighting with housemates and waiting tables then drinking it all away any better than their suburban conformity?
    La vie boheme has a certain appeal, but I think they could just as easily be booting up their computers to giggle at how predictably my life fell.

  28. Shay Says:

    Hell, the only reason I even joined Facebook was to see if the evil bitches from my class are all fat now.

    I should probably add that though not my classmates – a surprisingly large number of people I knew when I was a teenager are dead now. Mostly drugs. A few suicides. Automobile accidents. A murder or two.
    I kinda try not to dwell on the past like that.

  29. ivonne Says:

    I have gone and looked and anyone who says they don’t or haven’t at one point are liars. It’s inherent in our nature to be curious after all.

    I find vindication in it, in old boyfriends who are washed up has beens, and that the people I knew in high school are still trapped in the bubble of a town we grew up in. I was never tormented because I never took the position of the victim. I did find out though that the boy who I crushed on, and passed on me in 6th grade got killed in a car accident. It was a very odd feeling.

    My thing is, having a family and settling down doesn’t make me worse off than they are, or better. Just cause I had a baby and got married doesn’t make me worse off. The difference herein is that I just taste life and hope it makes me a better person but it’s not a competition to me. Some of those people probably look at my life and don’t envy it. Living in the bubble isn’t necesarily a bad thing at times if you’re happy with the life you’ve built. Bright lights, big city, Burning Man and all that… they don’t make you, you make them.

  30. Kale Kip Says:

    I’m from a really backward place. Over here nobody gets a university degree and everybody has kids when they turn 18. I turned out to have two degrees, so nobody here knows what I am supposed to do. Besides the occasional writing assignment I can do over the net, it ‘s the assembly line for me.
    I’m 28 and I still don’t have kids, so for most of the people over here, I’m the village nutcase. For the others, I’m probably gay. Both mean they leave me alone, so that’s okay with me.

    All my high school tormentors died collectively in a car crash. They were doing street races on alcohol and meth against some idiots from a neigbouring village. That turned out to be not such a good combination. Pretty gruesome even, nothing but gore and car parts.

    I still find comfort in that every day: I might have a shit life at the moment, might have always felt like that, but at least I haven’t died from stupidity yet. And who knows, maybe I can make enough money some day to move away from this place. Happy thanksgiving everybody!

  31. Ashbet Says:

    The only people I’ve ever looked up from high school have been old friends and a couple of ex-boyfriends — I kept in touch with the majority of the people I cared about (I’m still close with 2 of my 3 best high-school friends), so I haven’t had much of an impetus.

    I was tempted to go to my 10th high school reunion with a bit of a “fuck you, I’m still hot, and I’m living the exact life I want to be living” attitude — but, frankly, I couldn’t be arsed to fly to Minnesota just for a bit of schadenfreude. My 20th anniversary is in 2012, and I might show up for that if I can convince a few friends to go with me.

    I *will* say that I got a huge dose of BWAHAHAHAHAH YOU’VE GOTTA BE KIDDING ME schadenfreude when someone who had been *really* shitty to me in high school showed up on MySpace (I only found out about this because one of my existing close friends had looked him up), and he had become a real loser . . . this was someone who had lorded his intellectual and general superiority over us as teenagers in a really bullying way (as well as playing nasty sexual games with my best friend and I.)

    I will admit it, I HOWLED with laughter.

    Other than that, though, I really don’t have the impetus to look up people from the past unless I genuinely want to reconnect with them . . . but that’s partly because I really am happy with the life that I’ve built here, and I don’t need/want to compare it to anyone else’s at this point.

  32. Damien Says:

    Yes, but not solely for the vindictive purposes. I don’t look for them, so much as try to avoid. But I looked up the old crushes, the exes, the old friends. And then the melancholy comes in, for another reason, entirely:

    Though you are obviously wondering about them, even thinking about them, with fondness, they’ve moved on. Obviously. You haven’t heard from them (and it’s not like you’re THAT hard to find), and it’s been X Years! Fuck.

    You find a phone number, an e-mail, you think about it, you contact… And what? Do you do it?

    Anyway… Yes. And it’s been a clear, if reoccurring lesson in my needing to realise that people move on, even if I don’t know how to, in that way.

  33. Phizz Says:

    Absolutely, Nadya. There has to be a stopping point. After all, by doing this we are feeding off the misery of other people to make our selves feel better and it’s a dangerously self-absorbent path to go down.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little bit of revenge, with feeling that there’s a justice in the world, and with knowing that the people who have done us wrong in our pasts are getting their just desserts, but I also try to remember when i do it that these people were *children* when they committed these terrible acts against me, and that it was a very long time ago. Remembering this doesn’t stop me from looking, or for feeling smug, but it does stop me from going any further with it, for example contacting these people and gloating. it stops me from turning into a bully myself.

    When you start to feel bad for this kind of passive revenge, I think it just proves that you’re a kind and balanced person who knows when the scales have been tipped. So go you :)

  34. Filipe Russo Says:

    all together: my older brother had drug problems. my dad was never home. my mother was paranoid. my older sister hated me because the gay scene I went out with from times to times tried to get her and my mother wouldn’t let any of us get out. I also lived in a smalltown and always have been tormented for being freak, geek or for walking with open-minded and gay people. and the torments went from when I had eleven till my sixteen when I went to a bigger city not at all with all the artistic intelectual glory I wanted to my life but just to get in a clinic for mental health recovering. I had a nervous breakdown and the voices started. when the voices started its worse than the fainting or the panic attacks. I lost my first high school year because I was unable even to write or read a book. and the doctors were giving me so much drugs I couldn’t write, think, read and took me 2 hours to end a bath and I always cried unable to end my teeth brushing. the smalltown sucked so hard that I couldn’t find anyplace in there that I wasn’t tormented and now I live with my other relatives. it’s really hard to think you are only alive because you survived your own suicide atempts.

  35. kris_ether Says:

    I have to admit, like my fiancee Kitty Napalm, that I joined Facebook just for the spying. It’s quite an insight to see where everyone you grew up with have ended up.

    For me, like many others, the story is the same. I grew up in a small town in Herefordshire called Kington, in the UK. I was the short boy considered too intelligent for his own good by everyone else. While some people at school were good at a few things I was a bit too much of an all rounder and considered generally good at most things, and this was at primary school. Of course this was at cost. I was never the most sports orientated child and instead took up karate from the age of 7. As a result I was bullied by most others. Bullied for being too short, for being too smart, for being crap at sports, for doing karate, for being a geek (at the age of 8 I was heavily into mythology). Just bullied for everything.

    Things of course didn’t change at high school. Most of the same people that bullied me at primary school were there and then were more people who also joined in. Worse was that there were others, those who considered themselves the best at things particular things. Basically the unofficial elite that were good at studies and sports. The ones that crowed at your failiure and their own success. This carried on into 6th form. The 6th form was part of the high school and so we still had the same teachers only that now we had no uniform. Many of the people from high school had gone off to find work or to other colleges. But those that had remained, the same unofficial elite, again treated me the same way. It of course was different because everyone was now at that age where some had learnt to drive, we could go out for drinks and of course the relationships between people were now more involved. And still I was the outsider. Now I wasn’t just the geek or nerd, but the ‘goth’ who listened to metal and rock and alternative music.

    The weird end to all this was the 6th form leavers ball. There was one girl in my year who, though she was seeing someone, actually said she had liked me since she joined the 6th form. Tough shit for her.

    Results day when we got our A level results one guy in particular was all gloating about his results, while one teacher turned to me and reassured me that I would do well and at least I had some manners not to act that way.

    Of course this soon all changed. I was one of the few from our 6th form to really move far from Kington and Herefordshire. I moved to Manchester. Green fields were gone to be replaced by the red brick of the nexus of the industrial revolution. The home of modern chemistry and computing. I was doing a chemistry degree with an aim to do follow theoretical chemistry. This new city and enviroment allowed me to grow, become more alternative. And now 7 years on I have got a degree under my belt, finishing a PhD in theoretical chemistry, feel comfortable in this ‘alternative’ self I have found and have a wonderful fiancee who is looking to start a modelling career, and I now have more friends than ever who all share similar life experiences (I know my geek/nerd/chemist/biochemist/goth/roleplaying/wargaming types from a mile away). All this and the fact I have a wedding in Venice at the end of Carnivale to look forward to.

    AS for the people I left behind it helpd me see how far I have come and what I have achieved. Facebook appeared in my final year of uni. I have seen the old elite of school become old before their time, boring, stuck in a rut and not looking their best. I have seen the jealous bullies stay in the same old town with the same old partner and have a string of children. Some of them I have added to just spy on. Others because now they have changed in impressive ways. However, others added me and seemed shocked or impressed by my ‘profile’. That I did turn out ‘weird’. These things are made clearer because my cousin who was in my class at high school and 6th form is still stuck in that town. He reminds me not just how far removed I am from my past school life but also from the life of my relatives that have never moved away from that area. It’s all a reminder of what these 7 years have done for me and what all this hard work has allowed me to do.

    The funniest thing about all this was last X mas. I went back home with my fiancee so she could meet the family for the first time. We went down to my grans and we also saw one of my Dads sisters there. She has kids now at uni and so with Facebook accounts. My aunt said to my mum ‘Have you seen his photos online’ in a very rude way as if I was some freak. My mum was cool and just said ‘Well he’s just a little eccentric’. How true. Maybe I am just what my mum me to be all the time.

    So in summary facebook just allows me to remember what life could have been and that some of these people get what they deserve for squandering their opportunities.

  36. Celine Says:

    My worst torments actually happened in elementary school—compared to the Gibson Island Country School, junior high sailed by on gossamer wings (even though i went through as much shit as anyone else then). The school was forty minutes away and located (I shit you not) on an island populated by some of the east coasts most wealthy families. Had its own country club run by the founder of the Sylvan Learning School.

    I started the third grade there and kept the exact same class of 12 kids for the next 3 years. I had one friend, but only when no one else was looking (that is, we would play together after school but in class I was dead to her). The other kids watched everything I did and made me feel like a freak for it (how I walked, how I talked, the kinds of food I ate, the kinds of books I read, my hair, my unfortunate case of childhood acne, etc) and worse, they never ever touched me. In junior high that wouldn’t have been so hurtful, but in elementary school where everything is kind of high-physical contact, it really sucks. Also, I was living with a case of undiagnosed lymes disease, which was slowly eating through my joints. Three times a week we had to run laps around the perimiter of the school, and of course I came in 20 minutes after the fattest kid had long sat down. I went to a few parties when everyone in class had to be invited, and generally played by myself.

    In short, I still see those three years as the worst years of my life. I don’t know how most of them turned out—they’re obviously still going through college like I am. But I know the worst of them, the ones that led the teasing, have to be profoundly unhappy. Mister Slyvan’s twins would go into self destructive fits if they didn’t score perfectly on their tests. In retrospect, I sense they all lived in constant fear of not living up to the enormous pressures and expectations that their millionaire parents placed on them.

    Now I go to an ivy league art school with a harvard-level liberal arts program. I’ve moved to the city and have personal contacts with some of the biggest names in illustration and comics. I’m doing one-on-one internships with these people and I’m very excited to see where I’ll be in the next few years. While I never heard from any of those kids ever again, my experiences with them haven’t gone to waste. As a graphic novelist and illustrator, those times inform my art. I’d like to think that my past enables me to sympathize with all my characters and create more real environments for them.

    And who knows, maybe one day one of my former classmates will pick up one of my peices, and recognize themselves in it?

  37. Celine Says:

    bah, sorry for such a long comment—didn’t realize the length. Hope someone got something out of it though.

  38. marsiouxpial Says:

    i haven’t really indulged in the archeology of my past, but i reckon i wouldn’t feel an better or worse about myself to find out if the people i at the time despised are worse off than me. i moved away from a very poor town in the bay area about 4 years ago and i haven’t kept in contact with anyone from there.

    whenever i remember anything they did , i try to keep it in mind that at the time, they were just children who didn’t know how to deal with their anger, sadness, depression and hormones, so they looked for a scapegoat, because, to their immature and undeveloped minds, it was the best form of catharsis. i don’t see them as evil tormentors anymore, but as human beings who were fighting their own inner demons but they didn’t know how, and they were in an environment that was, in a sense, against any sort of emotional display or dealing with one’s inner feelings. i think they were as scared as i was and they were as sad as i was, but instead of turning to poetry, writing, reading, they turned to violence, the “gangster lifestyle”, sex, drugs and so on. i wouldn’t say i feel pity for them, or sad for them, because that would be condescending. i just hope that they all have happy, successful lives, and that they will not entertain sadness often.

    i suppose the best example i can give of the general atmosphere of the place was is this:
    once, out of a sense of perverse curiosity, my seventh grad science teacher asked “how many of you know of, are related to, or are friends with someone in jail?”
    everyone except for me raised their hands.

    (but the few that i rediscovered ended up being preggerz cholas and I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLED)
    oy gevalt, whenever i post here i become very verbose and BORING. iz the leprosy talking, i promise!

  39. Peter S. Says:

    Nadya,

    I can’t say I’ve gotten the random email, but an old tormentor did approach me in a club. In High School I’d been a tech theater nerd and he was (of course) a jock. Merciless as well. All he said to me that night was, “Dude, I was an asshole. Sorry about that.” It was pretty much all that was needed. Six years had faded most of the High School drama to faint memories, and that he felt the need to approach me in my comfort zone and offer even this short apology was enough.

    I moved from the midwest to the west coast when I was 12, and finding the folks from Junior High has been more challenging. I don’t think I look quite for the “HA! HE’S FAT AND WORKING AS A CARNY!” reasons. I’m just overly sentimental, and wonder what lives those pieces of my memory carved for themselves.

    Here and there I have those moments. I looked up my High School valedictorian, who had seemed to have a superior attitude. Ha! He’s a plastic surgeon! Oh. Wait. He does facial reconstruction for third world children. Okay, I’M the asshole.

    A few of those grudges, though . . . in High School, we were kids, unaware of the damage we could cause. When I ran into bullying from adults, though, I have no qualms about celebrating their misfortune. In the late 1980s and early 1990s I roadied for a few bands in the Bay Area. My guys had LOTS of gigs opening for touring bands, and it was always interesting to see how the “big” bands would treat opening acts. Most bands were really cool folks, who remembered being in the same position not too long ago. A few were so nice as to help me move the bass cabinet. Some just didn’t talk to us, being occupied with their own equipment and issues. A few, though, were real assholes. One band arrived at The Catalyst (in Santa Cruz) four hours late for their soundcheck. They’d already screwed their tour support out of their soundcheck and had cut into the time allotted to my guys. We were setting up when they got there, and they threw a massive tantrum. “GET THIS PISSANT LOCAL SHIT BAND OFF OUR FUCKING STAGE!!” Their road crew blocked the stage access, forcing me to hoist amps and cabinets up the front of the stage. The sound guys yelled back that their “unprofessional asses” weren’t getting a soundcheck, the band screamed that they were “on a fucking major label and didn’t have to put up with pissant local bullshit clubs and bands.” The impasse was solved when our drummer & I offered to scoot our gear to the side so they could play. They played for two minutes, said “Sounds good,” and left the stage. After soundchecks had ended they buddied up to us and asked where they could score.

    Years later I saw an article about just how screwed artists could get by a major label, and how fleeting success in music could be, with this band as the sole exemplar. Two of them were real estate agents in the L.A. area, bemoaning how shoddily they’d been treated.

    Couldn’t have happened to a nicer band. Good riddance, and I can’t say I feel great saying that.

  40. cappy Says:

    I’ll admit it, I sometimes search for those I went to public school with, but I’ve never been able to find anyone. Seriously — sometimes I think I grew up on another planet and all my memories have been artificially implanted or something; I can’t find anyone on either Myspace or Facebook.

    On the other hand, I learned through word of mouth (while visiting my home town one day) that my worst tormenter in middle/high school had died of a heroin overdose just a few years after graduation.

    Yes, I laughed, and yes, it felt very good.

  41. Bridget Says:

    Oh! so perfectly written. And that picture as well! hah! That is the embodiment of everyone I never hope to see again. I do this about once a year too when I go home for christmas, and on one of those late nights I always seem to end up at that myspace screen. I find it awfully amusing and a bit terrifying that I can find almost anyone I once knew with a few clicks, but I am happy that I can get all the benefits of finding what became of those people without a high school reunion being necessary. For me it has been somewhat comforting to see the people who caused me so much harm are still in the same place doing the same thing because knowing that I would get out of there and do something special was the one notion I had at the time to make it through–so to find out I was right does make me feel like the hero from some plot line.
    When I do visit home I see people I went to school with in all the shittiest of jobs which is comforting as well as frustrating because I can’t go in a pizza shop/grocery store/gas station without seeing them and having those awkward conversations. It’s nice to know you got what seems like a heart felt apology, Nadya, I had an ex from high school find me too but instead of an apology I just got creepy poems and then finally an email about how they thought I was doing really well and I should sell them some artwork–I never talked to them but I took that as the closest I was ever going to get to an apology,hah

  42. Erin Says:

    I’m a senior in college now, so it’s only been a few years past since high school ended. Of course there are a decent number of individuals who’ve gotten married already and popped out kids, but other than that, most people within my circle of friends are still on the same page. We’ve travelled abroad, done internships, spent summers working, nothing too extreme.

    I remember particularily however, two individuals who, in a way, “stole” one of my friends and turned him into a shallow, boring, Hollister-wearing twat of the most stereotypic kind. At the time I was a bit more transparent and wrote them a very vindictive, cruel letter. They both went to college, but I see their pictures now and hear about their deeds…and it’s all just a big sea of mindless drunkenness and sluttiness and duck lips. I can laugh silently because I can see exactly where these girls are headed and where they are already, but for the most part, as is apparent from my seeking them out, it still just hurts, and I’d rather have my old friend back than any sweet taste of revenge.

    I do agree with Alicia though. At this point I think it’s a little too early to call the race and say that my life has turned out superbly. Maybe in another 10 years that myspace visit will be a little more pleasurable.

  43. Trevor Says:

    It wasn’t so much actual research as it was being up at 2am one night during a summer break from college.

    I saw the first girl I asked to Senior Prom and who shot me down in a “Girls Gone Wild” TV ad.

    I laughed. And I still laugh today.

  44. BlueAnchorNatasha Says:

    Oh shit, Nadya, haha!

  45. Tequila Says:

    First off Happy Day of Fantastic Gluttony to all…enjoy the pie!

    I try not to look back that much to be honest. High School seemed like a total waste of time on all fronts. Outside of a few fun film classes I’m no longer in touch with anyone from that era. So when I look back it’s more like looking at someone elses memories. I’m too detached now…hell I was detached then. Never bothered to even take the required yearbook pictures and spent senior year erasing myself from the schools assorted history. Any tormentors I had I happily dealt with only a few months after HS was officially over…can’t say I’m too proud of that now but it felt right and justified at the time.

    Still as jaded as that may sound what I DO remember are the three or so genuinely cool people and given many live in and around LA these days…I seem em every now and again. Most seem to be doing pretty good really with families and what not.

    I take strange comfort in seeing those who were not defined by High School thrive…the rest have faded so bad from my memories that well…I kinda feel bad for not remembering. I couldn’t look any of them up to save my life. As much as I wanted to forget that era and the people while living it I never thought I would. High School Nostalgia is as American as apple pie, war, and rich people screwing over the little guy…figured I’d remember it all no matter what!

    But no. A patchwork at best. The irony is I’ve moved back to the area the school is located in recent years…and it looks so different I don’t have even that connection of “oh yeah I went there!”

    That’s kind of discomforting. Thanks Nadya for making me feel bad now! :P

    I need pie.

    Be careful what you wish for people!

  46. E. Paris Trauma Says:

    I don’t know if i failed or if i suceeded yet. I’m only 24. Ask me on my death bed. At least I’m having an adventure.

    I didn’t look them up because I don’t care.

  47. athingcalledcat Says:

    i did it when i was 19, i thought it was interesting to see who stayed & who left, i never contacted anyone, as there wasn’t any way they would remember me due to strange circumstances… now, at 26, i couldn’t care less… i am kind of indifferent to most people at the moment though. not sure how long this phase lasts, but i hope it is over soon (or that i have the strength to end it). i miss caring about random strangers.

  48. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Oh, of course. From time to time, the impulse raises it’s ugly head. But rarer and rarer, I’m happy to say. Sort of in the same realm of checking in on exes. We know it’s not a good idea, but we do it anyway.

  49. etak Says:

    I’ve looked up my past tormenters, and I’m talking about girls that had turned the entire 8th grade class against me, and have been happy to find that their lives have led them nowhere. I can’t help but feel like I’ve won somehow, seeing them in bumfuck nowhere Tennessee with an ex husband, 3 kids, and showing off their 4-wheelers. I’ve attempted to message some of them, but they never respond to me. Oh well.

  50. Sepha Says:

    I was never really picked on much in High School. But yeah every so often I run into people who were my friends as teenagers. It’s weird I don’t really think most of them have failed in any massively life crushing way. My crazy friend from sixth grade is studying computer programming. My slightly less crazy friend from ninth grade has been doing web design. Her sister’s ex boyfriend who was in English class with me moved out of his parents house (or was kicked out depending on who you ask) and is working two jobs, one of them being a DJ in a goth club. My classmate from AP Spanish is studying Spanish.
    No surprises there
    I guess I worry that I’m almost as stuck as some of the kids who stayed behind. Even though I no longer live at home, my parents are still paying for part of my tuition. I don’t really think they believe me when I say that I’m going to move out to the west coast this summer.

  51. January Says:

    Ugh, thinking about this always depresses me-
    I’ve never looked up anyone from the Villiage of the Damned that I grew up in, but not too long ago, I heard reports of what some of the jerks I went to school with were doing, and while a lot of them never left town, and are leading very small, simple lives, some of them aren’t.
    One girl in particular stands out- she was always just like the rest of them, very judgemental and mean, etc, but last I heard she and her man were teaching overseas, and travelling constantly.
    I always expected to be able to look back and feel great about the choices I’d made in comparison to the tiny, boring lives I expected my former classmates to lead, but now I often find myself wondering if they could look at my life, and feel superior because what did I do? Grew up and got a job in (ick!) finance.
    Yup, should have been a rock star.
    Oh, and Celine? You’re singin’ my life- third grade move, acne, rich kids, the whole story.
    Solidarity, sister. =)

  52. R. Says:

    I haven’t looked up anyone I went to high school with or college with for that matter. Actually I’ve lost contact with all of my high school friends and enemies because most of us went out of state to college and if we did go local we didn’t go to hang out together, so we grew apart. When I do run into them I just find it strange to see how they’ve matured. Some of them may still live at home, have kids and work a 9 to 5 but they’re living the lives they wanted and I find that comforting.

  53. Z Says:

    Feeling nice about yourself is good, but having too much schadenfreude means that you’re still playing the “small town game”. You may be winning now, but you’re still playing it.

    During college, I began working out, filling out and taking care of myself. When I went back home one summer, all of a sudden all these people who would never give me the time of day in high school started approaching me and talking to me. I was a little stunned, I didn’t even know they knew my name. I went home and thought about it, and how I should react in the future. I decided that instead of being “superior” about it, I would be friendly to them. That means that I’ve taken more shit than I’ve given, but I’ve made peace with that.

    Plus, you never know how your own life will turn out. I mean, you’re cooler than them now, but what about 20 years from now? You don’t want to be the person who was an asshole to them at 28, but at 48 they’re the shit and your life is a dead end.

  54. Nadya Says:

    Guys, I want to thank you again for your incredible comments and stories on this. I read them all, and I wish I could respond individually to each one.

    I think that the comment Z made just above me is very profound. Maybe “The Test of the Small Town” isn’t over when you town physically. And it’s true, you should never assume that everything will just turn out right in the end. You have to keep working at it, improving on yourself and helping the people you love. That’s the most important point, and the reason I posted this on Thanksgiving: to be thankful, and try not to take shit for granted.

  55. jessu Says:

    I actaully had this conversation with my other half on the way to dinner yesterday. We both come from the same small town and got the hell out. Most people we know are still there. Some are doing okay, some not so great. I think it’s crazy that so many of the ones who actually went to college moved back. Even worse, they want to raise kids there- in a school system whose arts & music programs they saw cut when they were the students. I don’t hate them, and we’re still friends, I guess I just question their judgement.

    I admit it, I gloat. IMO, no one from my past is doing better than I am. I travel, I party, I dress like a princess regularly. I own a house in an area I love, and for the most part my social life rocks.

    Maybe I just measure success differently. I don’t want to be a teacher, or a soccer mom, or live near my family or drive an suv. I want to be the center of attention. I think I kick ass at life, and I guess I hope they all feel the same way.

  56. Magess Says:

    I haven’t even looked up the people who used to make my life miserable. I think part of me is afraid to find out that they’re doing better. Maybe they’re even doing fabulously. Because me? I’m not doing that great. Or not as great as I thought I should be with a quality education, talent, and intellect.

    Bad things don’t always happen to bad people. And I don’t want to find out that those bad people are rich, happy, and living well.

    I imagine most of them do not live here, because you have to be really rich to live where we grew up. Unless they all turned out to be investment bankers, it isn’t going to have happened.

    There is wisdom in thinking or knowing that it shouldn’t matter. That other people’s success or failure has nothing to do with me. Believing that is a lifetime of effort, I think. Maybe effort worth making, as we’re raised to believe that keeping up with the Joneses is the point of life.

    That was rambly. But no, I don’t look them up. I try my best not to think about the people who destroyed my ability to believe anything good about myself. I try to believe that I can someday move beyond the need for their approval, as they have moved beyond the need for my degradation. We shall see if that ever works out.

  57. zombiemonk3y Says:

    I live in a huge city, and play the small circles game every day, there’s always someone surfacing, I find it’s safer not to get caught up in thinking about people I would’ve liked to strangle for all those years.

    Move on, move up.

  58. Jami Says:

    I wasn’t really bullied in high school, I had thick skin by that point so I didn’t notice it much. 6th grade was the worst for me though. There was a kid that said some of the most hurtful things I could imagine to me on a regular basis, I was commonly referred to as Medusa by most of the school (ahh, having curly hair is fun!) and all of that. It was a really horrible time in my life.
    In Junior high that boy and I went to the same school, we never had classes with each other so I was overjoyed by that fact. It wasn’t until I was we both got to high school and shared a public speaking class that I really got over any hatred I had for him.
    He gave a speech in class one day talking about when he was in Junior High he nearly died from kidney failure, how he had to have surgery and was terribly sick. He was a totally different person and he did apologize to me shortly after that.

    I do admit that I enjoy looking at the profiles of people I used to know on Myspace, but it’s a hollow joy I get from it. I really don’t understand the people that are overjoyed at the idea of staying in their hometime, having kids in their early twenties, working a completely crap job and sending their kids to the same shitty schools they went to. It boggles my mind.

  59. alumiere Says:

    nadya – in response to the comment:

    As someone who fucked up at the register a lot in my life (hello, RadioShack!) I actually feel really bad for that girl, based on the scene you’re describing. But if she tormented you, she’s totally a bitch and she deserves it. Still – working in retail is actually a hard job. I’d have a harder time there than at my current desk job.

    oh trust me – i agree retail isn’t easy – i’ve done it too and hated it, and i did feel bad for her at the time – no matter how badly she’d screwed up her manager had no right to be yelling at her like that right in the middle of the store

    otoh, since i got to hear the specifics it made some part of me (ashamed of it though i might be) feel like her karma earned her this asshole for a boss

    anyway – thanks for the excellent thoughts and drawing the readers that have made the replies such an interesting read as well

  60. B Says:

    I’ll admit to doing this, way back when. But it wasn’t out of any sort of vengeance or schadenfreude as much as curiosity.

    But what I did find depressed me. A girl I didn’t care for had a baby soon out of highschool, the majority of the people I didn’t like still live in the small depressing town I grew up in, and many of my old uber religious friends have either married or are engaged.

    But some of the people I did enjoy are still in that shitty town, working at Wal-Mart or some other minimum wage gig.

    I don’t know, I had been planning to leave that town ever since I began high school, and I guess I just kind of assumed most of the people I found solidarity with were going to do the same thing. Maybe I’m just projecting how I would feel in their shoes and when they’re actually perfectly content. Who knows?

    But I did meet a few people from my grad class about a year back who had also moved to the “big city” to chase their dreams too, so that was cool.

  61. mayhem Says:

    once I left highschool i discovered none of that crap mattered to me at all. But it does to others, I had a guy who had been one of the popular guys at school come up to me at a party in front of all his mates and say he was sorry for saying the things he said in high school (which to be honest i had forgotten) and that i was a good person and he was just young and dum. I said all good and i accepted his genuine apoplogy. It was about a week or 2 later i found out he killed himself. Although his reasons for suicide where nothing to do with mine and his encounter I still to this day often think about it and hope he knew i had no hard feelings and did forgive him.

  62. Warren Ellis Says:

    It is much easier to simply presume everyone you knew is dead and move on accordingly.

    After all, sooner or later, you’ll be right.

  63. Jackie Says:

    A girl who was mean to me in high school, one night watching TV I could have sworn I saw her in one of those Girls Gone Wild videos. She didn’t look happy though, more like she was nervous and feeling used. I thought then, even she doesn’t deserve to be used by those scumbags.

  64. David Forbes Says:

    This piece has stayed on my mind, and as a bit of a postscript, I’d like to add the following thoughts.

    Small towns get a lot of shit (so do big cities). I left the place where I grew up not because I hated it as a whole but because it wasn’t where I was meant to be after a certain point. But there are a lot of really good people that live there. It would be a poorer world if every interesting local adult I knew growing up had moved elsewhere when they hit 18. Some of those people ended up being really important influences in my life. I still cringe (or bristle) a little whenever I hear someone assume automatically that people who don’t come from a large city must be narrow-minded and uneducated.

    One last thing. I found out recently that one of my friends in high school, a person much smarter than I in terms of sheer IQ, was still in the same place. At first this made my sad, as it did to find out some of my friends had just spiraled down.

    While brilliant though, he’d also been kind of an arrogant heel. I figured he’d be some sort of high-powered attorney or investment analyst by now. Instead his mother got extremely ill and he stayed behind to take care of her and help pay the bills.

    He eventually became a volunteer fire fighter and an EMT. He is, by all accounts, pretty happy: a good father and a much more humble, giving person than his younger self. Better? Worse? I don’t know. I don’t think I ever will.

  65. rickie Says:

    i find myself in a bad mood, made worse by thinking about how lame it was of me to look them up in the first place.

  66. Jamie Says:

    I was never “tormented” or teased beyond the occasional and astute comment that it wasn’t Halloween. =P But one girl I went to school with, a real ditz, now has her own porn website. That kind of makes me sad, but it’s also kind of hilarious. I guess I feel a little bad for her, but she seems happy enough with it, so who am I to judge? (It ain’t Pornoween?)

  67. Heather Says:

    Middle school had to be the worst period of my life, worsened by not having any private place of my own. Before I moved into my current apartment, I was living with my mother and grandmother; my mother and I shared a room (which is a nightmare in itself). For three years I came home four out of five school days crying to the point of developing migraines, begging to be put in home school. Everything about me that could be pointed out and used against me was; same shoes worn every day in 1998, tallest girl in the class (my reign still continues at 6’2″), freckles, crazy mother, pants too short.

    It took me way too long to get over the harassment, and I’ve gotten to a healthy point of indifference. I still live in the same neighborhood, and see some of the same people. I know that most of them became “addicted” to pot in eighth grade, dropped out of ninth, and proceeded to knock each other up until prom-night babies came out of their ears.

    My inner 10-year-old is still a bit pissed at the jackasses who poured food on her notebooks and laughed at her when she talked with the only openly lesbian girl in school. But I sat her down, gave her a spine, and reminded myself that everybody’s middle school experience sucks. Besides, if they happen to come up to me today and remain the selfish little fucks that they were, I can handle it far better. For now I get to work on my illustration career.

    And yet I’d still probably do this:

  68. Beth Says:

    I don’t know. clicking through all of the responses (+ chatting with my housemate) I’ve kind of lost the original question.

    But I’m only a junior in college, so those things are farther away. But I did kind of look around at the end of high school + go “Yep, there’s only about two people here I actually give a damn about. The rest can go to hell.” And I just kind of shut down to them.

    I also deny a lot of facebook friend requests, because I honestly don’t care to hear about everybody’s business all the time.

    Ugh, I need a nap.

  69. tymcode Says:

    I experienced a corollary to this over the weekend. Someone created a Facebook group for the beloved, doomed coffeeshop in Campbell, CA called the Upstart Crow. All the South Bay alt-crowd hung out there in the late 80′s, and it was an important part of what made me weird.

    I spent the long weekend cringing at the photos, at others’ inability to remember me, my inability to remember people who remember me, my inability to remember names, faces and events that were so influential to me, my confession of a crush only to be immediately friended by my former object of ardor… There was a lot of cringing.

    And yes, I was looking at the current photos, what we’d all become. And yes, there was a certain amount of satisfaction that I wasn’t the only one who had lost most easily identifiable signs of former hipness.

  70. Al Embic Says:

    I visited my old home town over the holiday hoping to see some of the holier-than-thou crowd working in second rate hair salons, or as receipt checkers at Costco. Oddly, the only person I recognized was a “special needs” kid I remembered from when my parents made me go to Cub Scouts.

    I expected to find catharsis from the misery of spoiled kids working meaningless, menial trades. Instead I felt a kind of optimism watching this under-appreciated, working class guy carefully packing groceries with an air of genuine pride.

    Thanks Audie.

  71. meaghan Says:

    I didn’t have too many tormentors but I’ve looked up some jerks from my past. I don’t feel bad for laughing at them, but I do pity them.

  72. Seth Says:

    Late post, I know, but I blame TurkeyNap ™.

    Forget Zoloft, holy crap! Hit me especially bad this year.

    I intentionally didn’t read many replies so I’d give you something non-biased and directly from my brain squozenings.

    You hit the nail on the head with the duality of the thing. At once I find myself horrified at how little of this majestic planet they’ve seen/understand, but also find myself jealous of their simple existences and companionship.

    I’ve done and seen some crazy stuff so far, and have many days yet to come (I hope). Still, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’m missing something. It’s much harder to find a group of reliable like-minded people when you’re working towards a higher state of intelligence.

    That’s not elitism talking, it’s just sad fact. The more I think, the more I find to be True, the less I can relate to your average person. A simple conversation with Joe The Plumber on the potentiality of the quantum universe becomes akin to describing a degree of “brightness” to a blind person. They’re never going to really understand, because they don’t have the basic framework to put it into context.

    Not that they COULDN’T learn the basics, but realistically most people do not take the time. Perhaps that’s your answer, Nadya. We who exercise our mental capacity are lonely because there’s too few humans making an effort to truly do so.

    Or maybe I just explain things horribly. A realist embraces all possibility til proven false, after all.

  73. lucylle Says:

    It’s strange… I was reading these posts and finding that many things in common, both with the people who “made it” and those who are still struggling, I had the urge to do a google search for the guy who I spent six years of my life with, from 16 to 22.

    Why? Because his inability to change and grow as a person (he decided to settle down in his town working dead end jobs rather than try to better himself despite having potential) was one of the reasons I decided to move to another city… with both him and my father prohetizing that I wasn’t going to amount to much and would fall back in place in no time. Well, I managed to move out from my parents home and have been living on my own ever since without taking one cent out of their pockets. Got a second scholarship that eventually landed me the job I wanted, took up freelancing and now am in the middle of another bout of change due to hobbies now becoming more and more serious and job-like…. I’m also in love, which is something I didn’t really think it could happen. I’m not as nearly happy or satisfied with myself as I would like to be, but I know that I can do better and improve if I keep on it, because these past five years are proof enough. Better yet, I know that I have to cherish the desire to keep change coming rather than fight against it.

    And the ex boyfriend, you might ask? I found him on Myspace and yes, I gloated for about ten second. Now, I might have been influenced by the past, by the haunted expression of his only picture and the mentions of harsh dealing from life, or by reading the posts above, but I feel like I have deserted a person I could have helped, because I was too busy chasing my own life goals. So, as hopeless as it can be (as he was the one who walked away from my offers of friendship at the time and decided to burn bridges) I sent him a message… maybe he’s discovered that change doesn’t necessarily mean something bad.

  74. meardearna Says:

    I did the 90% of things described and actually bumped into a bunch of them not too long ago.

    My only feelings after seeing them is they are still a pathetic bunch. They have turned out as one would expect.

    But at least they seem happy, as happy as ignorant pigs. And maybe I am an unhappy thinking person.

  75. o Says:

    I never knew anyone like that in school,
    but I did end up at a party with a bunch of
    old bleached blonde ex frat girls a week or so ago.
    I stood there astonished because they were all so LAME.
    Then I wondered why I was even there
    so I got drunk on the free booze,
    knocked off their knickers and left.

  76. cdthomas Says:

    Or what’s worse, that the grown-up bully who lowered the discourse and increased the racism, sexism and homophobia in one’s old department has been awarded a national prize for his career professionalism?

    That he went on to teach other professionals in the field, poisoning their minds about whether anyone other than poisonous white, straight men should ever do his job?

    I was more shocked that he wasn’t dead from his own bile than he won something from the industry this year, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. The proof of the system? Is what it does.