The Middletown Press, the paper of record in my college town in Connecticut, just ran a very sweet piece on me and the book.
I was up in Middletown last year for my 20th reunion, and was struck as I always am by how much more together the students seem than when I was one of them, angsting and cramming and protesting stuff and wondering if there was something wrong with me for actually not caring to learn the Javanese Gamelan, even though Wesleyan was possessed of the only such instrument on the East Coast at the time and we were all supposed to recognize how rare an opportunity it was. Wesleyan was a special place, but I felt a certain pressure to eat up every moment in all its specialness, and take full advantage of what being young and protected and liberal arty was all about. I overthought things then, as now. Other kids were having a beer from the keg and watching the football game and not thinking much more about it. Some things will never be Formerly, I guess.
Of course, when I was a student, I’m sure anyone looking at me would have seen a really together-looking kid. It’s a reminder of what my best friend Julie once said, and I’ve repeated countless times because it’s so wise: You can’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. Only you (and people you trust enough to share with) know what goes on in the Beirut (or rather, the Baghdad) of your brain, the extent of your insecurities and your secret strengths. The outside? More often than not, its a billboard advertising what you’d like to be, or what you are at your very best, like, 11 percent of the time.
Knowing this, as most of us Formerlies do, even if we don’t remember it all the time, is one of the major gifts of getting older. That perfect marriage? That “shocking split!” on the cover of Us magazine? Maybe not so terribly shocking, considering that there are actual imperfect people involved. That woman with the incredible body at your gym, despite having had three kids, who seems so happy and at peace with herself and her wheatgrass juice? Yeah, maybe, right this second. But maybe not.
The idea that people are people and none of us is immune to what life doles out, good and bad, I find profoundly comforting. It’s a unifying force–we’re all in this messy life together, whether we were in the ethnomusicology program or Delta Kappa Epsilon, and might not have known what to make of one another in college. It makes me happy to be alive.
Have a good day.