I got an email from a high school classmate (let's call her Becky), and it really shocked me a bit. We were in a writing club together in high school. She was a very talented writer, and I was in the club because I wanted the extra credit for senior English. We published a literary journal, and Becky's work was all over the place. I imagine she had 1/6 of the pages in the journal. She wrote poetry, short stories, Haiku, all sorts of things.
Because of our last names, we were in the same homeroom throughout high school, and the only time I really got to know anything about her was in that literary club. You know, when you are in homeroom for only 15 minutes at a time, and there is nothing but disseminating information to people throughout the year. Then, senior year we spent two afternoons a month, sometimes more, working on evaluating writing talent. I always thought I was a bit more objective about evaluations. None of my friends submitted to the magazine, and I didn't even submit (until the advisor made me). Many of the pieces were about teenage angst. Some were raw; most tried doing things that they would be ill-advised to try. Talking about love, death, longing, all from the memory of high-schoolers.
In reading Becky's email, I was surprised to find that she did not do anything with writing. She has her own small company, and she is an artist. She did not graduate college (she dropped out after a year), though she graduated high school with honors. She has studied, but mostly with small seminars and the like.
I have seen her art, and it is beautiful. It looks like a mixture of impressionism and folk art. Not sure how else to explain it. The thing is, she was considered the most talented writer in my high school, and she does something that has nothing to do with writing. I am sure the biggest tramp while I was in high school put her tramping skills to good use. Why not the writer?
I guess part of the reason I don't try to reconnect with people from my high school is because I don't want the carefully crafted image I have of them to change. I thought I knew these people; sort of like some of these writers thought they knew about love, life, and angst. And I knew in which direction their lives were heading. I just don't want to know that the skillful writer became the artist, the tennis star is selling shoes, the brainiac who breeds dogs. Not that they are not worthwhile professions, but they are not my vision for the future.