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Hey, Old Friend

The world of academia is small. The world of ethnomusicology is even smaller. Today I ran into an old high school friend at the University. He's normally working on his Ph.D. at Columbia, but he's here studying Tamil for the summer. I knew he was here; a mutual friend who did undergrad with him and who is now doing grad with me told me he was in town, so I wasn't entirely surprised to look over randomly in the computer lab and see this guy I hadn't seen since high school. He was surprised, though. His eyes bugged out, and you could see him having a paradigm shift right there: "Wait . . . that's Pony . . . not supposed to be here . . . supposed to be somewhere else . . . can't process . . . "

So we had a nice chat. We talked about our different programs and where we wanted to go from here. He spoke highly of his program at Columbia, which encouraged me, because I'm thinking of applying there for doctoral work.

It was neat; I haven't seen him since I was seventeen and he was eighteen, but I knew it was him right away. Couldn't have been anyone else. And he recognized me, too, though it took his brain a while to admit it. He looks grown up now. He doesn't have that gangly walk he had in high school; instead, he's all cool and coordinated. In high school, there was a man inside him who he was trying hard to find. I think he's found that man now. I can see the jazzy, bopping kid he used to be, only smoother and richer. He hasn't lost the dance in his step, and I'm glad of that.

It's good to know that we're colleagues now. It turns out to be a nice dynamic between us, very easy. I know the person he was in high school, and he knew the person I was in high school. No chance of pretense or appearances or any of that professional posturing. It's good to know that I will have one academic colleague who will see right through whatever pretensions I might build up over the years.

Somewhere in eleven years, he changed from a kid into a person. I wonder if that's what it means to grow up. And I wonder what he saw in me.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 28th, 2005 04:00 am (UTC)
That's neat. Isn't it stunning how small the world can be sometimes?

I've found old friends and aquaintances sometimes in the darndest places, but this one's really interesting. :).

Of course, you always have to watch out, when they know what you were REALLY like as a kid. lol...

Jul. 28th, 2005 06:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Aww!
But, see, I know what he was REALLY like as a kid, so it all evens out in the end.

I have come to the conclusion that, no matter how far I run, I will never escape my home town.
Jul. 28th, 2005 12:38 pm (UTC)
Isn't it interesting that two of you out of your high school class ended up on the same career path? I mean, considering how uncommon a choice it is.

I love your thoughtful description of him : In high school, there was a man inside him who he was trying hard to find. I think he's found that man now. I can see the jazzy, bopping kid he used to be, only smoother and richer. He hasn't lost the dance in his step, and I'm glad of that. I don't know him, and yet I feel glad for him :-)

There's nothing like someone who knows the real you. My best friend is like that. We grew up together. I probably can't normally see how we've changed - not like you and this guy because you've had such distance - but I was at my brother's girlfriend's birthday party the other night and this friend came with me, and my brother (who's younger than me but grew up with her as well) hadn't seen her in years and suddenly I found myself seeing her through his eyes. It's was amazing to remember the things we did as children that stood out for him and then to see how we are now. So different, yet despite everything, still the same in so many ways.

And I wonder what he saw in me.
That's really interesting. What do you hope he saw? Or think he saw? Don't answer that if it's too personal...

Jul. 28th, 2005 06:07 pm (UTC)
For him, it wasn't so uncommon a career path -- his father was a fairly well-known ethnomusicologist, so he's sort of following in the family tradition. For me, it was somewhat less likely, but hey.

I'm not quite sure I have any idea what I hope he saw in me. I guess I hope that he wasn't disappointed, that he recognized the differences between who I was then and who I am now, and that he approved of them.
Jul. 28th, 2005 02:32 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful entry!

To tell you the truth, it makes me cringe, but you put in a whole different light!
Jul. 28th, 2005 06:04 pm (UTC)
A couple of years ago, it would have made me cringe as well. I guess I've had enough distance from high school to find it neat rather than creepy. And it helped that this was one of the people I didn't hate in high school.
Jul. 29th, 2005 05:17 pm (UTC)
What fun to run into someone like that!

When I was finishing my grad work, I ran into one of the girls in my high school class that I really did not like at the time we were in hs together. She saw me and stopped me to speak with her--she was just beginning undergrad. I was absolutely amazed at how much we both had changed since high school and I don't think I saw the changes in myself until I spoke with her. It was an interesting experience.

I'm glad you enjoyed talking with him--as others have said, this was a really cool entry, FP.
Jul. 29th, 2005 05:40 pm (UTC)
It helped that this guy was, if not a bosom buddy, at least someone I was friendly with in high school. Even now, I have no desire to interact with most of the people I knew in high school.

I thought the whole thing with running into him was cool.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


by Illsaysheis

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