People read blogs for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they read for coverage of specific topics, sometimes they read because they like the writer – I hope that you read my blog because you like the topics that I cover as well as my writing! However, there is something about writing a blog (and writing in general) that can be a very personal act. I have consciously decided to avoid those types of entries on this blog because I don’t think the personal entries are exactly what my readers come here to read. However, I thought I would write something somewhat personal today.
This entry deals with something that I uncovered the other day that initially shocked me, then saddened me, but ultimately made me shake my head in disbelief and laugh at other people’s neuroses. I expect that many of you will have a similar reaction. This entry deals with the neuroses or delusions (you decide which one – I’ll use both words throughout this entry) of my former grade school classmates – people who once, a long, long time ago, I considered friends. This is a longer entry that I put together over a few days, so you might only want to read this particular entry when you have some extra time.
First, some background…
Grade School in Mt. Arlington
My family moved to Mount Arlington in Morris County in the summer of 1988. We moved from Manhattan because our family grew by one when my younger brother was born on Christmas in 1987. We arrived in New Jersey just in time for me to enter the second grade at the local elementary school. Since I was coming in from a Catholic school in New York, I obviously knew none of the kids in the local elementary school and thus didn’t have any friends when I started at the elementary school. It was no big deal, really, because in second grade you become friends with kids just by sitting next to them which is exactly what happened to me.
The kid that I sat next to in all of my classes in the second grade (and, actually, until I graduated eighth grade) was a kid named Brian. He was a great guy and we were buddies. Unfortunately, Brian passed away a few years ago after fighting some diseases (I believe it was a form of cancer). But when I was younger, Brian was one of my first friends in the new grade school and we continued to talk and bullshit once in a while through high school and after I went away to college. He was a good guy. Anyway, as you might expect, it took a matter of weeks for me to become friends with everyone in the second grade. One of the reasons why this was so easy to do was because there were only 40 or so kids in the entire grade and I also participated in local recreation sports (soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and little league in the spring). Plus, living in a somewhat small town, it’s not that hard to get to know everyone!
That was the beginning of me making friends in Mount Arlington. While I didn’t know any of the local Mount Arlington people, I did know all of the kids that lived in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, one of my best friends (who is my age) and his younger brother (who is a year or two younger than us) went to a different elementary school in a nearby town (Roxbury). The local town boundaries are drawn weird in my part of the town and it made it such that some of the kids in my neighborhood went to one school and some went to another; one of those weird things you’ll only find in a New Jersey small town!
Anyway, I had a great time in grade school and by the time I reached the eighth grade, I had a lot of good friends in Mount Arlington. As I recall, I only got into one fight in seventh grade with some weird kid who moved into town for a few months and then promptly moved out. I was an outstanding student (one of these days I’ll write an entry on here about my eighth grade graduation, where I swept every major academic award at the graduation ceremony – it was honestly ridiculous – ask my family).
Moving on to Roxbury High School and Sports
When my eighth grade class graduated, I think that the majority of us were all excited to move on to high school. The local high school was comprised of some 1400 to 1500 students. About 1200 of these students came from the neighboring Roxbury school district while 200 or so came from Mount Arlington. In other words, the kids from Mount Arlington were an extreme minority in Roxbury High School.
Honestly, I was never bothered by this because I never really had the time to think about being in the minority.
I never had any time to think about this because I chose to be highly involved in Roxbury High School. I played football, I wrestled, I ran track (okay, I threw shot put, which doesn’t exactly constitute an act of “running”), I ran for – and won – four different student government positions. By my senior year I became what the made-for-TV movies would call “popular” or a “big man on campus” without even trying to be either – it just happened organically as a result of my participation and excellence in these various activities (to toot my own horn for a moment).
But we’ll get to my senior year soon enough…
Getting back to freshman football, anyone who played football at Roxbury during the late 1990’s can tell you that we practiced a lot! I spent the bulk of my free time during the summer before my freshman year at football practice. Anyone who has ever played on a good sports team can also tell you that when you play a sport with a bunch of guys at a relatively young age, you become very good friends and you create a bond. In fact, to this day on a weekly basis I still speak to some of the guys that I played football and wrestled with in high school.
One of the great things for me playing football at Roxbury was that some of my neighborhood friends played on the football team so I was getting to play a sport with some people that I had been friends with for a long, long time (before we moved to Mount Arlington in 1988). Plus, my cousin (who is actually only 5 days younger than I am) moved into town and he played on the freshman football team, too. My older brother also played, but he was on the Varsity squad with some of the other neighborhood guys.
Over the years we grew into a very tight football team and eventually won the school’s first state championship in that sport. Many of us also wrestled on the same team for four years; by the end of our senior year we had become a very close group of friends. Like I said above, here we are today – fifteen years after I met some of these guys for the first time and almost eleven years after we all graduated from high school – and we all still talk regularly. Those guys are great and I think that every guy should have that level of camaraderie while in high school.
Queue the Psycho Music
But I began this story in Mount Arlington because that’s where the neurotic or delusional people in this story come from…
At some point between graduating eighth grade and some time in high school (I can’t pinpoint when, exactly), a small portion of my buddies from Mount Arlington began to dislike me. Don’t ask me why this happened because I am nowhere near the level of psychotic necessary to fully understand where these people are coming from on this one. I just know that during my senior year of high school my girlfriend at the time informed me that three or four guys from Mount Arlington didn’t like me any more.
At the time, I flabbergasted by this revelation. I couldn’t imagine why these guys didn’t like me! I didn’t have any of these guys in my classes in high school because I was taking the honors curriculum and, other than a few of the girls that I went to grade school with, there weren’t many of my former Mount Arlington classmates in my classes. I definitely never went out of my way to be mean to these guys or anyone, really. The last meaningful conversations that I had with any of the guys from Mount Arlington were in grade school before we graduated and like I said earlier, they were friendly and cordial. In fact, I distinctly remember going to one of their birthday parties at a local army base and going over to one of their houses to watch a football game (must have been the Super Bowl, I don’t remember).
I was “friends” with these two or three kids, make no mistake about it. Were we good friends? Eh, it’s hard not to be good friends with everyone when you’re in a class of about 40 kids for seven years so I’d say we were good friends. Were we best friends? Definitely not. But we were good friends.
So What Was the Problem?
From what I’ve heard (and, again, I’m thinking back over eleven years ago to something that my girlfriend at the time told me) these two or three guys began to dislike me because they thought that I “forgot where I came from.” Well, that’s a nice little catchphrase for high school kids to throw around, but it really doesn’t hold any water once you apply it to the reality of my situation as I outlined above.
So while I think that these guys were being a little bit delusional, I also think that I know what happened here.
We went to Roxbury High School and I was the only one who began playing football; I was the only guy who began running for (and winning) school-wide offices in student government; I was the only guy who wrestled and eventually became the Captain of the wrestling team. Like I said earlier, I was one of the few guys from Roxbury who wound up being considered a “big man on campus” (a distinction that I didn’t care about nor did I ever seek to achieve – these things happen organically). Oh, and by the way, I hate the term “big man on campus.” I’d prefer to say that I was a student that was actively engaged in his personal success, the success of his teammates, the success of his high school, and the success of his extended hometown. But since more people probably understand what high school was like when I use that cheesy “big man” phrase, so be it.
You get the point.
I went to high school and excelled at all of these sports with teammates who were primarily from Roxbury (i.e. not my classmates from grade school in Mount Arlington). Bear in mind that my best friends from my neighborhood (which was essentially Roxbury) and my blood-related family (my older brother and cousin) were also on these teams, too.
What it boils down to is that when we arrived in high school, I did my thing and these two or three guys did their thing…except part of their thing was telling each other and then agreeing with each other that I “forgot where I came from.”
Talk about surrounding yourself with “yes” men!
Since I learned that these guys didn’t like me as my Senior year was coming to a close, it didn’t really affect me in high school. And, because I had zero interactions with these guys after eighth grade, them choosing to not like me did not effect me in college or graduate school and it doesn’t effect me today. For those of you in your late 20’s – put yourself in my shoes. If someone that essentially faded into the background while you were in high school didn’t like you because of their own neuroses and you didn’t know about it – could that possibly have any effect on you? I thought not.
For comparison’s sake, think of it like any of the actors on Saved by the Bell finding out that one of the background characters who filled a seat during the classroom scenes saying that they didn’t like one of the characters on the show. Except in my case, these people weren’t even in the seats in my classes!
And if I am going to be completely honest, then I should say that my life has been so filled with a variety of ups, downs (mostly ups), events, volunteering, work, school, etc. that these people occupy 0.00% of my mental energy. In other words, I completely forgot about them. It happens – I guarantee that there are people that you went to school with that you forgot even existed. Think about it…
Okay Joe, But What’s the Point?
That’s a good deal of background information to digest, so you might watn to take a break at this point.
Through a weird series of clicks on Facebook the other day I was reminded of these couple of guys and their dislike of me. I clicked on one link that took me to another link that took me to another link (you’ve all been on Facebook, I’m sure you know what it’s like when you see something that catches your eye). Ultimately, I wound up on this little photo-based website that one of these guys put together. The website was put together for their little clique of twenty or so people that hung out with each other back during high school (hey, I wasn’t invited to hang out – maybe I should be the one harboring ill will towards them! LOL).The website looked like one of those sites created during the early days of the internet – the graphics were rough and it appeared that the only areas that were updated were the picture galleries. I didn’t really flip through the picture galleries because I’m not overly interested in anything that these people are doing or have done, but I did click on a page that listed out some of the “opinions” of this little clique. The opinions consisted of two or three images – I don’t remember exactly what all of the pictures were because I only focused on one picture in particular…
I’m sure you’ve all seen that picture of Calvin the cartoon character pissing on something. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve included it here. Well, when I clicked on the “opinions” page of that poorly put together website, I saw Calvin pissing on someone’s head. The image looked like it was put together during the stone age of the internet, when people used MS Paint to create crude versions of what Adobe Photoshop does with ease today. I looked at the picture of Calvin pissing on that head and I swore that something looked familiar. I could barely make out the face on the head because the quality was incredibly poor, but I swore that the head that Calvin was pissing on looked a lot like…me!
I sat and looked at that picture for a minute and went through the mental index of pictures of myself in my head. I was trying to figure out what picture my head could have been cropped from and after a minute or two of thinking, I singled out which picture it had to be. A few years ago I scanned all of my physical pictures to an electronic library that I keep on my computer, so I went to that electronic library and lo and behold – I found the suspected picture. Just to be sure, I blew up the picture of Calvin pissing on my head, put it side by side with the picture in my electronic library, and I found a perfect match (albeit a much, much lower quality image from the website).
Wow. That’s Weird. So What?
At the beginning of this entry I said that I was initially shocked and saddened when I saw this picture, but then I ultimately shook my head in disbelief and laughed it off. And that’s exactly what happened. When I placed that head as my own, I was shocked. When I realized that these were my “good friends” from grade school who created the crude image, I was saddened. Finally, when I realized that these people clearly have a deep level of neurosis or delusional thoughts about me and why they went one way in high school and I went another, I actually began laughing out loud. How could I not find the humor in this!?
Think about it.
Here are two or three guys that I literally did not have one thought about through my entire time in high school until my girlfriend brought them back to my attention for a few minutes. Here is a small group of guys that, I kid you not, I have not had one thought about since high school until I stumbled across this little website the other day. I could probably count on two hands the amount of minutes that I’ve spent thinking about any of these people in the last fifteen years.
In the mean time, these people are so neurotic about me and how I rose to be a popular kid in high school that they put my head underneath Calvin’s piss stream! Ha ha ha!!! How great is that?! They created this negative energy about me and then obsessed over that negative energy while I only had enough time in my day to practice football, practice wrestling, and do my school work! They actually spent time in their day finding ways to feed their irrational dislike of me while I forgot that they existed!
I’ve spent the last fifteen years living a life free and clear of any ill will and this picture shows me that they have, in part, obsessed over how much they believe their own bullshit fairy tales! Ha ha ha! Meanwhile, I haven’t devoted one minute of my time to their obsession! I win!
But Joe, You Must Have Been Mean to Them, Right?
The funny thing is that I never disliked any of these guys (or the 20 or so other people that they probably infected with their negativity). In fact, I always had a great affection and consideration for all of my old grade school friends. How could I not have a great admiration for my friends from grade school? As I recall (and I admit that I’m thinking back over twenty years – many of which are clouded by vodka – so my memory might be fuzzy), we all always had a good time in grade school. And as for the few folks from Mount Arlington who traveled in the same circles as I did in high school – we had a lot of fun, too. I went to my ten year high school reunion a few months ago and I saw two people that I went to school with in both Mount Arlington and Roxbury and it was great to see them – we had an awesome time catching up with what everyone was doing with their lives.
But for these few guys, I guess in their warped world view I must have “forgotten where I came from.”
Ha ha ha!!!
How could I have forgotten where I came from? When we all entered the high school, I kept in touch with as many of the Mount Arlington kids as possible. Between being involved in student government, playing football, and trying my damnedest to get Advanced Placement credits in the honors program I didn’t have that much time to speak with every single classmate that I knew! And how does one who is building bonds with his teammates, which include his blood-related family members as well as kids that he’s known since he was very young, forget where he is coming from? That is, by far, the most ridiculous catchphrase that these guys could have thrown their support behind.
Let’s think about what their version of remembering where one comes from must include. In their version, I would have to remain in my hometown no matter what the outside world had to offer. In other words, there would be no football, no wrestling, no student government…hell, no college, no living down the shore for the last ten years, no jobs too far from home, no knowledge of anything outside of the little bubble that is Mount Arlington in Morris County, New Jersey. Unbelievable! And how is it that I forgot where I came from when none of these ridiculous rules applied to these two or three guys when they went off to college and moved to various parts of the state? But let’s not let reality ruin the delusions.
Frankly, if I wanted to take a negative, self-indulgent stance like these few guys have taken, then I might suggest that it was they who abandoned me once we entered Roxbury High School! Of course, I can see the complete insanity that believing such rubbish would require and I’m just not that far away from sanity.
And In Conclusion…
What it comes down is that – even more than a decade after graduating high school and fifteen years after graduating grade school – these people have an irrational hatred in their hearts. They have the type of hate that you find in the worst people on this planet and I find it really shocking.
In the end, I’ve always liked these people because after we graduated from Mount Arlington, I never created a false reality about what their motives were during our high school years. My last true interactions with them were in grade school and those interactions were awesome. When we entered high school and I was preoccupied with living a very exciting, very full life, these guys created a fairy tale regarding me forgetting my Mount Arlington roots. Side note – wouldn’t my roots be in Manhattan? Oh well, let’s not ruin their story.
At this point in my life (and their lives, I’d imagine), I find this absolutely hilarious. I believe that their neuroses and delusions are for them and their psychiatrists to figure out. For me, though, my last meaningful memories of these people were good ones until I found that childish image on one of their weird websites last Monday.
Since I’m not a bitter, angry, hateful person like they clearly are and since I harbor no ill will towards any of them, I hope that they enjoyed creating their little picture and their fairy tales all of those years ago. Hey, sometimes people are weird and I guess I found out that this group of people is just a weird group. Good for them! Be weird! More the power to you! Even after finding that picture and finding the real hate in their hearts, I still only wish the best for them and their little clique.
Some Final Words
And so here we are after nearly 4,200 words in this entry. I hope that this entry does some justice to these delusional people. I hope by acknowledging their irrationality I can bring some closure to their fairy tale – hopefully I can bring them a, “And they lived happily ever after.” Yay!
There is so much more that I could write about this story and this little group of guys. There are more twists and turns in the story that I wish I knew more about. For example, one of these three guys from Mount Arlington that decided they didn’t like me had a huge crush on my girlfriend in high school. However, since I didn’t interact with their little clique, there was no way for me to know that he had a thing for her (plus, it wouldn’t have stopped me from making my move). He felt like I was sweeping in and stealing the object of his desires right in front of him (which is true, I guess). I don’t really know much more about the situation than that, so I can’t really talk more about it (but how great could that part of the story be, huh?).
Back in the real world, though, I know that I’ll forget about these guys and their pettiness and hatred for another decade or two. In truth, I’ve already forgotten about them multiple times during the last week! I’m sure that their psychiatrists will suggest that they do the same with me.
I hope you enjoyed that brief look into my grade school and high school world! There are many more tales from Mount Arlington and Roxbury that have yet to be written. Maybe I’ll run across another picture or person on Facebook that dislodges another memory!