Daily Archives: October 26, 2012

On the Occasion of my 25th High School Reunion, Words From the Teenage Me

My high school class is having its 25th reunion this weekend, which I will unfortunately not be at (I had that little book deadline, you may remember, which played merry havoc with my scheduling), but the side effect of which is to have a number of my classmates post pictures of our high school days on Facebook. Here’s one from Scott Moore, of yours truly. I don’t know the exact year, but given the shirt and hair, I suspect it’s sophomore year, i.e., 1985, and I would have been fifteen or so in that picture.

I know some of you will ask what I was like at fifteen. The best answer to that is to say you should ask my classmates, since my own memory of myself would be at this point highly revised and edited. I will say that by fifteen, I was already writing short stories and imagining myself being various types of writer: A columnist, mostly (I had discovered H.L. Mencken, Molly Ivins and P.J. O’Rourke by this time) but also a novelist and even a lyricist, heavily informed at the time by Pink Floyd and Depeche Mode, a dangerous combo if there ever was one. I had already decided that I was going to be a professional writer when I grew up, because when you’re fifteen, you can make decisions like that, fully ignorant of what such a decision entails. On the other hand, I have been a full-time, professional writer all of my adult life, so well done, fifteen-year-old me! You showed me a thing or two.

I am not going to show you today the writings of the fifteen year old me. However, as it is the 25th reunion of my class, I am going to share with you something from the seventeen year old me: My chapel talk. At my high school, we had (non-denominational) chapel three days out of the week, and during the year, every senior who wanted to could give a chapel talk. Often it was a summation of their high school experience to that time, and sometimes it was just what they were thinking about that day. It really depended on the senior. This is what I was thinking about when I gave mine.

Please note that aside from small spelling and punctuation errors, I have resisted the urge to clean up the piece in any way, so what you’re getting is genuine 17-year-old John Scalzi. Have fun with him. Don’t tell him what happens to his hair.

And to my friends and classmates: Have fun at the reunion. I wish I was there, and you have my love.

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I would like to write about a topic that I have always had a fascinated interest in. That topic is time.

I looked up the definition of time in Webster. Webster said that time is “the measured or measurable period during which an action proceeds, or a condition exists or continues.” The subject of time is a subject in which we, human beings in general and students in particular, are particularly interested in. We spend it, waste it, give it, take it, ask how much we have left, and ask for more. Somehow we never seem to have enough time.

A man named Bernard Berenson wrote, “I would I could stand on a busy corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me their wasted hours.” How many of us would do that if we could? I would. Actually, it depends on what kind of time it was. Time is relative, it seems, and I would be happy to take all that time I spend in a particularly bored state of mind and transfer it to when I could use it; for example, I could always use a little more sleep or a little more study time. First, though, I would use that saved time to do those things which I enjoy: playing drum, reading or writing, or being with my friends.

However, we cannot transfer time. So we exist, and our time is terminally short. The time we seem to have the lest of is the time that is the most important: The time spent doing what we wish with those whom we wish to be with. Anyone who had had a friend or relative pass from their life, by death or some other circumstance, knows this to be true. We never seem to take the time to say what we have to say to those people. Then they are gone and there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing hurts worse.

Our culture is riddled with examples of man’s wish to suspend time. Peter Pan lives in Never-Never-Land, forever young. The six-foot rabbit in “Harvey” can stop the clock with a mere glance in the clock’s direction. Jim Croce wrote a song in which he wishes to save time in a bottle. Our religions have eternal paradises, where we live forever, unto infinity.

But we are finite creatures, moving through an infinite amount of time, and while we would reach out and grab as much of that eternity as we can, we cannot. We run out of our allotted time and slip away, our affairs and concerns uncompleted, our dreams and desires, for the most part, unfulfilled. If there is a Heaven, I believe it is filled with men and women bitter with the knowledge that they could have done so much more and could have meant so much more during their lives if they had had just a little more time.

As you can tell, I have spent much of my time think about time. I am painfully aware of the fact I don’t have enough time. I joke to my friends about being immortal, but that is only because I am not, and it infuriates me that I am not. I have very little time, as do we all.

So I have decided, over the course of time, that I wish to live my life in such a manner that when I am on my deathbed, I will be able to say to myself, “I have lived a good life. I am content with how I lived.” And when I am called on the carpet by God, Yahweh, or whoever it is that is controlling our little machinations, I will walk through all those bitter people with a smile on my face.

This is a philosophy of life which I urge everyone to follow. Take pleasure in your life, now. Tell jokes. Play music. Dance. Stay on the phone until two o’clock in the morning. Laugh and live life. Most of all, let those you love and who love you know what they mean. Hold them to your heart and tell them what you need to say: That you need them, are glad to have them, and love them. Do these things. They are more important than you may think.

Ben Hecht wrote: “Time is a circus always packing up and moving away.” I would ask all to use their time so that when it is packed up and sent away, they can watch it go with a smiling face and content heart.