This happy fellow dancing badly is my high school classmate Doug Stone. He partied all the time, was a total slacker and arrived late & drunk to graduation. He now manages a global hedge fund & earns $15 million/yr.
Every three months, like clockwork, I suddenly experience an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. It happens when my high school alumni newsletter arrives. I went to a private all-boys’ military high school, the Albany Academy, founded in 1813. The school sends out a quarterly newsletter for three reasons:
- to update alumni on programs they’ve initiated, like the incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex
- to not so subtly solicit generous donations to fund the incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex
- and most importantly, to invite alumni to send in updates about their booming careers (and invite them to share their riches to offset the cost of that incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex)
I don’t normally suffer from poor self-esteem. I feel fairly good about most of my vocational moves – even my current ten-year gig as a humorist, despite the fact that it is a source of constant embarrassment to my wife and kids.
I generally avoid contact with most of my high school classmates because it invariably degrades into a rencounter among alpha males for top honors in career achievements. I’ll bump into someone from my graduating class who had been a stoner and slacker and barely eked by with a C- average. In the first minute of our encounter, he informs me that he’s now Chief of Neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic. Or perhaps he invented GPS technology or won the Nobel Prize in Mathematics. Then comes that awkward moment when he asks what I’ve been up to and I am thrust into the awkward moral dilemma of whether to tell him I’m the CEO of a multinational technology firm or Ambassador to France. I usually just dodge the entire issue by vaguely alluding that he does not have the proper security clearance for me to divulge the details of my amazing story. Continue reading “Classmate Updates I’d Like to See” »
[The following are excerpts from a recent high school graduation address given by Tim Jones. The name of affluent, private school has been withheld to spare the institution further shame and embarrassment for having selected Mr. Jones to deliver the address. – TEJ]
Recently I gave a high school commencement address. Mostly I just read out loud some old VFTB columns I’d written about Donald Trump. Not sure the kids could hear me over the rap music pounding in their ear buds. I must say, those three hours just flew by.
I would like to thank everyone who made today possible. The esteemed faculty, administrators, guidance counselors and even the disgraced former assistant coaches, for everything they’ve done to help all of you reach this important milestone.
I would also like to acknowledge the countless contributions of your self-sacrificing parental figures, by whom I mean your mom, dad, step-dad, other step-dad, and nannies.
Perhaps most importantly, I want to acknowledge the makers of Ritalin and Adderall for helping you kids stay focused enough to complete an impressive 37% of your assignments.
Congratulations, [REDACTED] High School class of 2019. As I look around this dimly lit auditorium and behold a sea of mortarboards atop designer sunglasses, I am struck by all the untapped potential.
I ask you, the co-leaders of tomorrow, to indulge me as I impart a few pearls of wisdom. First, though, I sincerely apologize if my musings distract you from the text messages about tonight’s rave party at Nate’s. I hear it will be “totally lit” because his parents just left for Italy.
You will soon leave the halls of this fine institution behind. Some of you will embark on the journey called “life- how to avoid it”, thanks to your parents’ untraceable bribe that got you into Stanford. Well done, mom and dad. You have four more years to avoid facing reality – that is, unless you are expelled freshman year for never attending class. You might want to rethink your longstanding policy of playing League of Legends till 4a.m. (LOL!)
For those of you not fortunate enough to possess incriminating photos of the Dean of Admissions at the college of your choice (or any college), no worries. There are countless other career options awaiting you after your graduate from [Fill in the blank] Technical College: Horse Inseminator, Sewage Diver, Deodorant Tester, Roadkill Removal Specialist… The world is your oyster, as in oyster shucker. Go for it.
Congratulations, proud high school graduates. You did it! Your future looks bright. I am sure, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that dream six-figure, 20-hour/week job as a cruise ship bartender that you richly deserve. Reach for the stars!
Then there’s the rest of you – you know who you are. You decided college is not for you because you know everything already. Of course, you do. But three months from now, in the off chance your well-thought-out career plan is not unfolding as hoped, and your dreams of making millions as a day trader living in your parents’ basement are not panning out, please drop me a note when you apply for the coveted cashier position at McDonald’s or Burger King. Tough decision. My advice: Hold out for Mickey D’s. Better fries.
Soon into your university experience, you will be required to declare a major. The pressure is enormous, having to make a decision. So many enticing options: Medieval Astrological Studies, Auctioneering, Floral Management, Bagpiping…. One thing is certain: whatever you choose, it will be the wrong choice, which you will not discover until 3 semesters and $45,000 later. When you end up jobless with $100,000 in college loans due, don’t freak out. Remember, your parents co-signed the loans, so technically, they’re liable. Problem solved.
Graduates, I must forewarn you: there will be adjustments as you go forth. The biggest will be that there is no longer a helicopter pad for your parents. Your college professor will not take a call from your mommy explaining that your allergies were acting up and you could not finish the term paper. Your boss will not engage in a text dialogue with your daddy about why you deserve a raise for not missing a day of work in three weeks. You’re in the big leagues now.
I realize some of this might come as a disappointment, but out in the real world, things are a little different. By all means, congratulations on those trophies for Toddler T-ball participation and your 4th grade project on the planets (even though you left out three of them, including Earth). Cherish the Gold Star for picking up most of the crayons you threw across the classroom in 7th grade. And your cogent debate team argument that Lil Wayne is a greater influence in the music world than the Beatles, well, that’s one for yearbook.
I admit, the fact you’ve memorized the lyrics to every Ariana Grande song is pretty “dope” and should count for something. But then, I’m a fan. However, I’m here to tell you that the world out there may not value your incredible childhood “achievements” as much as your parents did.
There are no Smiley Stickers for showing up to work on time. And while it might not seem fair, you probably won’t get that corner office in Chicago with a view of the Pacific when they promote you from Administrative Assistant to Administrative Specialist. Be patient.
These are the proud parents of Joey Grimaldi. He graduated with a 2.3 GPA and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed – with the Babes.” He’s decided to forgo college for a gap year as he entertains his options – both stock and dating. To fund this venture, he plans to live at home and ask his parents for a raise in his allowance.
Your unlimited self-confidence is impressive. You can thank your parents for that, because ever since you were in the womb, they told you incessantly how amazing you were and how you could do anything you set your mind to.
I hate to break it to you, kids. Actually, you’re not quite as special as you think you are. And here is a word you’ll need to get used to hearing: No. As in, “No, we’re not going to install a hot tub in the employee lounge to inspire your creativity.” And “No, you can’t take four days off next week to attend Coachella with ‘your posse.’ We’re on deadline.”
The truth of the matter is, in the real world, not everyone is a winner. Some of us end up losing. If you don’t believe me, google “Gary Busey.” You’re not a real winner if you can’t handle losing. You need to learn how to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and push onward. (Readers, I apologize for the previous words of profound wisdom. They came from left field.)
Students, in closing, it’s time someone told you the truth about how life beyond your parents’ protective cocoon actually works. It isn’t always fair. Mom won’t be there to tell your boss to stop being so mean to you for assigning so much work. And success might take a little more effort, persistence, and time than it took for you to break your record score in Grand Theft Auto.
Hey, I could be wrong. Maybe you are every bit as perfect as your parents have protested for the past 18 years. But before you show up at that important interview for the killer job as a video game tester, you might want to remember to say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” give a firm handshake, and make direct eye contact. Oh, and take the ear buds out.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019
This is my high school senior yearbook photo. I know what you’re thinking: Tim, you look so cool – not the least bit nerdy.
I am often asked, “Tim, were you always so popular and beloved by all who know you?” Admittedly this question is usually posed during a recurring dream in which Scarlett Johansson presents me with the Pulitzer Prize for Bad Humor Writing. You may find this hard to imagine, but in my younger days, I was not nearly so popular with the girls or envied by the guys; nor was I as comfortable making verifiably false claims as I am today.
The truth is, before college, where I assumed a totally new identity and back story, I was rather shy and nervous – especially around the fairer sex. I blame this on attending the Albany Academy, an all-boys’ school, for twelve years and being a late bloomer (I expect to start blooming any day now).
In addition to these impediments, I was one of the lucky teens who wore braces, was afflicted by acne, and was slightly overweight. I also lived nowhere near any of the other kids in my school, so getting together with them was a no go. Then sprinkle in a large dollop of parental disapproval from an extremely strict father who perpetually described me as “a disappointment,” and you have the perfect recipe for an awkward young man not exactly brimming with self-confidence.
At the Academy, a private military school, there were the usual cliques – the cool kids, jocks, theater guys, and stoners. I belonged to a very small and eclectic group consisting of one member: me. I was the pleasant enough but somewhat serious “straight arrow” who was considered too much of a bookworm to invite to parties. On most Saturday nights, while the majority of my class was getting drunk at Woody’s house or Hayward’s or Robb’s, I was typically at home, falling asleep watching Mannix at 10:00 on CBS.
Truth be told, I didn’t really care that I missed all the parties, in part because I did not drink (still don’t), and also, I just was not into that scene. I found meaning in studying – all the time. There’s a word for someone like me who routinely got good grades and devoutly completed all homework before allowing himself to play: A Nerd.
I guess, if I’m being honest with myself (something I try to avoid as much as possible), I was a little behind the curve in a few areas – like what to say on a date… or what to wear on a date… or how to get a date. Continue reading “Mr. Popularity – The Early Years” »