"When I was in high school, I sat behind Jessica in math class. Jessica was perfect, from the top of her raven hair to her perfectly pedicured toes. She allowed me to do her homework. Because I was doing her homework, she would talk to me. She would say things like 'here' and 'thanks' and 'don't use pen.'
There was a dance coming up. I got up my courage. She was standing outside of the cafeteria with some friends. I walked up to her and asked her if she would go to the dance with me. She looked at me with a puzzled look, and started to laugh. She shared with her friends and they started to laugh. I went home.
A few days later the principal called me. 'We'll put you in another math class, but you have to come back to school.' I went back.
Fast forward 20 years. I had just adopted a three year old girl, and was taking her for her first haircut. The ladies at Supercuts made a big fuss over her. As they were fussing over her, I noticed the operator's license on the mirror. I looked closely, and sure enough it was Jessica. She had gained much weight since high school, but surprisingly it was Jessica."
"I was a nerd in high school. I was occasionally bullied, but being 6 foot 2 and about 200 lbs. probably saved me from a lot of that. Still, I was socially awkward and not at all 'cool.' My family didn't have a lot of money, so I didn't have stylish clothes or a car.
The couple I remember were the head cheerleader and a basketball star. Neither of them were mean to me in school; we didn't interact very much, but what passed between us was cordial enough. By the way, the cheerleader was drop-dead gorgeous and the basketball player handsome.
As it happened, only three members of my high school class matriculated to the state college where I eventually graduated---me, the cheerleader and the basketball star. They might have had plans to continue the romance when they applied, but by the time school started, they were no longer a couple. All three of us lived in the dormitories, which shared a dining commons. I would see them almost every day.
The basketball player distinguished himself the first week by wearing his high school letterman jacket to class. This practice didn't last long, as he quickly learned how uncool it was to try and relive your high school glory days when you were in college.
The cheerleader just seemed kind of lost. She went to the parties and drank too much. The town where I grew up was adjacent to a large Army post, and many of my classmates were the children of Army personnel. Her dad was a master sergeant. She enrolled in ROTC, mainly to please him.
Toward the end of the school year, there was a formal dance for the ROTC cadets. Attendance was all but mandatory, and you couldn't come stag. I had to recruit a mercy date from one of my lab partners. She was a good sport about it. A couple of weeks afterward, I saw the cheerleader in the dining commons, and it occurred to me that she hadn't attended the dance. I asked her why, and she replied, 'No one asked me. I was hoping you would.'
How far we had fallen. The cheerleader was hoping the nerd would ask her to the dance. I told her it never occurred to me that she would have the smallest interest in going with me.
I think that was the last conversation I ever had with her. She didn't return to school the next year, and I have no idea what became of her. The basketball star wound up teaching PE and coaching basketball at our old high school."
"I come from a small town. The cool kids were the rich kids. Born with silver spoons in their mouths. One of the popular girls had driver's ed with me. The teacher fell all over himself to be nice to her. She drove first, the boys fought to open the door for her, the teacher gave her perfect scores.
Me not so much. A total nerd, shy, quiet intelligent and straight A grades but far too damaged to look at anyone popular, much less converse with them. That was high school.
Imagine my surprise when I decided to go to community college and saw Ms. Popular in my class. Seems she got pregnant senior year. Married the popular boy who also had rich parents. Had the kid and was in early childhood education classes with me.
Of course her mom was the teacher. She got all straight A grades on each assignment and so did I. One day, she was talking about poor single moms with disdain again, and I guess her mom just had enough.
After Ms. Popular went on a rant about, 'People on food stamps should only be allowed to buy the necessities. Beans and rice should be the limit. They're poor and don't work for anything anyway.' And she continued, 'I see people pay with food stamps who also use cash to buy dog food! It should be illegal to own a dog if you have food stamps. Dogs are a luxury, and poor people shouldn't be allowed to own them.'
Her mom (the teacher) turned to me and said, 'Nicole, is there anything you want to say to Ms. Popular?'
'No,' I mumbled and hung my head.
'Yes,' the teacher gently said, 'I think you do. Do I have your permission to talk about your last paper and ask you some questions? It is worth extra credit if you say yes, and I promise not to say anything too revealing. We can stop at anytime.'
I thought, 'Damn, she has me. I need to keep my grade, and it's her daughter. I have to let her humiliate me.'
Out loud I said, 'Yes.'
'Can I tell the class what happened in front of your house last week?'
'So last week the police chased a criminal through Nicole's neighborhood. About 2 am she was woken to a man rattling and banging on her door. Her German Shepherd freaked out and when the dog began barking, the man moved on. He was shot in the steps of the apartment next door. The police told her if he had gotten in he would have held hostages so it was a very good thing her dog scared him and delayed his entry into an apartment. The dog probably saved her and her daughters' lives that night.'
'Nancy, are you on food stamps?'
'Are you trying to fix your life, by going to college to get a good job and to set a good example for your children so you can provide for them without government assistance?'
'When was the last time you didn't have dinner so your children would?'
'My children are always fed.'
'I know. You're a good mom. But you? When was the last meal you skipped?'
'Breakfast', crap she tricked me.
'How often do you eat steak, and drink soda, and have cake?'
'Maybe once a month or two if it's on sale or if it's one of our birthdays. I do fine. I get $100 a month for food usually but this month they took it away because I went back to school. I haven't got a check from school yet so it's hard but my kids always eat. I'm on a special program so I get a free lunch. One meal a day is fine.'
Her mom (the teacher), turned to Ms. Popular.
'You have led a charmed life. I say write your greatest challenge and Nancy writes me the story you just heard. You write about eating rice and beans on every other Wednesday night to show your parents you can help them buy you your first house. I'm so glad you lived the life you did, but you should realize how lucky you are, and stop judging others who have it harder than you. You all want to be teachers? You'll meet a lot of Nicoles. Please have some compassion.'
So that's what happens to pretty, rich, popular girls -- they grow up to be pretty, rich, popular adults, who judge without shame because they never had a truly hard day in their lives."
"I attended high school in a blue-collar mill town, with most of my classmates coming from lower middle-class families. Relatively few of them showed any interest in continuing on to college. But I was a doctor's daughter, earned good grades, and was expected to go to university - which meant that I was a member of small, nerdy minority. The athletic jocks and gorgeous cheerleaders were untouchably cool to my eyes.
I graduated from high school and attended university. During my senior year, I went into the ladies' room and another woman was already in there, a young mother with a fussy baby in a carrier and a very active toddler. She was trying to maneuver the baby carrier into the small toilet stall while holding the toddler's hand, but wasn't succeeding. Exasperated, she looked towards me and we both realized that we knew each other. She had been a classmate of mine back in high school - The Queen of the Cool Kids.
'Oh my gosh, is that you, Stacy?'
'Yes. Are those your kids? They're beautiful!'
'I love them more than anything, but they're a handful. Do you have a moment? Could you hold my baby? I need to pee so bad.'
'Sure! I'll hang onto your little boy, too.'
She looked utterly exhausted.
After we were done using the restroom, we walked together to a small cafeteria nearby. I bought coffee for both of us and a giant cookie to share. Her toddler happily munched on the cookie while we talked and sipped coffee. She fought back tears.
I asked her why she was at the university. She said that she'd been thinking about becoming a student. She'd been recently divorced, her ex-husband couldn't provide the financial support that their kids needed, and she wanted to get a good-paying job. She thought that furthering her education might be her ticket to success, but those hopes were dashed when she realized that caring for two small children by herself while attending college would be extremely difficult. She couldn't even use the toilet without assistance!
I told her about the university's inexpensive child care cooperative, and encouraged her to talk to the financial aid office. Then we discussed the possibility of her waiting until her youngest was out of diapers before attending (the web didn't exist yet, so online courses weren't an option). We talked about community college, and trade school. We talked about her working 'under the table,' so that she could earn a little income without losing her access to food stamps. None of her options looked very good.
Tears, tears, and more tears. Then the bombshell.
'I wish I were you, Stacy. You've always had it all. You're smart, and you make good decisions. No wonder that all of the teachers loved you back when we were in school. I was so jealous of you and your friends. You were the cool kids, the ones that I was too intimidated to talk to. The kids I hung out with were all going nowhere. And that's where I am right now.'
I was stunned. Me, cool? I didn't even attend the senior prom, let alone have a high school boyfriend. She'd been the golden girl that all the boys fought over. She had panache, charm, athleticism, and beauty, all areas in which I was lacking. How could the coolest girl in school think I was anything but a dweeb?
None of that mattered anymore. Now she was just another person, badly in need of the encouragement that I didn't know how to give. I tried.
'You're not nowhere, you're just going through one of life's really rough patches. You'll get through it one way or another. I know you will. Please have a little faith in yourself. You're going to be OK.'
I have no idea how her situation turned out. I hope that she was able to find happiness for herself and her little ones."
"Mine basically went to the same university, married each other and had kids and put 'em in the same school. The place I lived was very sheltered, my peers were absurdly well-off, we were okay as well but we left and mixed with the rest of the world. These guys for some reason just stuck together their whole lives.
I remember they were bullies. I was visiting my hometown and my mother said let's go for a drive, I have to pick something up from school (she happens to teach where I used to go now) and basically took me to a reunion without me knowing.
When I got there. I saw two of 'em, looked the same, wasn't particularly fond of them, part of the cool crowd, they had a kid, I thought 'wow.' That's so sweet, people finally grow up and have kids.
I walk up, they say hey, and I ask how they are, dude answers. Asks me how I am, I start talking, mid-first sentence the guy walks away shaking his head.
So yeah, the cool kids in my school suffered a halt in developmental/growth, as is the case when one peaks too early."
"I graduated fifty years ago. I only keep track of one person. She led a charmed life then and continues to live a charmed life.
She seemed to be perfect in every way- even her hair was perfect every single day. She was smart, beautiful, a beautiful voice, always had the lead in the plays, the solos with the choir, was a cheerleader, lived in a beautiful house, went to an exclusive college. She always seemed nice too.
Because her college was near my state university, I continued to see her name occasionally- starring in the school play, soloing with their choir. Around this time I started to get annoyed that she was still in my face.
A few years later I saw her on television doing an infomercial- using her own name like she was a household name and wondered if she would ever go away. And she did go away for a few years until the internet when I could check in on her charmed life.
She married a billionaire (of course, what else would I expect?). Fifty years later they are still married, and have two (I assume perfect) children. She is still creative and now philanthropic. She became interested in composing music and ] has written various music pieces that have been performed not only in her home city but around the world- most recently in St. Petersburg, Russia. Some have even been performed by a major ballet company. She donates the money from all of these ventures to charity. She has written children's books, is director of a major symphony orchestra, breeds and shows championship dogs, co-chairs a major pet organization which raised two million dollars recently, is on the board of a major cancer hospital. I could go on and on but you get the idea. She continues to lead what appears online to be a charmed life.
I am not jealous- I may be an atheist but do believe it is not good to covet my neighbor's life. Besides I have a pretty good life myself. And like her, it is the one I have chosen to live. She just thought bigger than me and lives a bigger life."
"I went to a small boarding school, so there weren't that many cool kids. But I still remember these four boys in my year that were the most popular kids in the school. Pretty much everyone loved them: students and teachers alike. They would always pull these crazy pranks and do these stupid stunts that all the other students loved. Everyone thought they were saints, but they really weren't.
The leader of these kids was one of those guys who had it all going for him. His parents were rich, he was smart enough to get great grades without even trying, and on top of that he was a star athlete. Unfortunately for me, he had a mean streak a mile wide and would always bully me.
His best friend was, if possible, was even worse. He had a pretty rough home life, but you'd never guess from the way he acted. He grew his hair long like a rock star, and dated just about every girl in our grade. While the leader of their little gang would mess with me for fun, this guy would go out of his way to make trouble for me. About two years before we graduated, he nearly got me killed by one of his pranks. The only reason I'm still alive is because the leader stopped the prank to save his own skin.
The third member of the gang was always sick, and kept missing school because he had to go home. He was the smartest of them though, so that's probably how he managed to keep up. He was outwardly nice, if quiet, but there was always something about him that was a bit off-putting, like he was really a savage monster. Some of the more elaborate things they did to torment me, I knew he had to be the one to come up with it.
The last one was a complete coward and an idiot. He'd only do things if his friends were doing it with him, and he nearly flunked several classes I heard.
If you couldn't tell, I wasn't a cool kid. My parents were always fighting, and my family didn't have much money, so I didn't have very nice clothes, and I was a complete nerd. I was an easy target for those four boys.
Fast forward about ten years now, and things have changed, I can assure you.
The leader of that little gang married a girl I used to be friends with right after graduation. They both passed from a homicide related incident several years later, and their son was sent to live with his aunt.
The leader's best friend joined a cult that followed a serial killer, and ended up murdering the 4th group member as well as thirteen others with a bomb. How he survived I don't know, but he was sent to prison. He escaped twelve years later and is on the run.
The sick one didn't do too well after school. His health problems stayed with him, so he could never hold a job for long and is now struggling financially. He actually came back to teach at the school we went to, but had to leave after a year because of some scandal.
As for me, I also teach at the school, and have been for over a decade. They offered me the position a year or two after I graduated. So there you have it. The 'cool kids' from my school all either wound up dead, in prison, or broke, while I have a successful career."
"I was a freshman in 1982 at a high school in the rural south. I was new to the district and knew almost no one out of a class of 560 or so students. In other words, I might have been less conspicuous if I'd tattooed 'beat me up' on my forehead. Needless to say, I was NOT one of the popular kids.
For reasons unknown, a large group of cheerleaders inhabited my biology class. Their leader was a sophomore, and when I tell you she was physically perfect you'll just have to take my word for it. Blond hair, blue eyes, deep tan and a body that was heart-stopping. These girls WERE the coolest of the cool kids. They did their best to humiliate or embarrass me at every turn. As a side note, this included flashing me. I suppose that was meant to torment me, but at 15 I couldn't have cared less! For this reason I could never hate them, but their contempt wasn't exactly good for my self-esteem.
Fast-forward ten years, and my wife and I were walking through the local mall. I hear a voice calling my name, and see a blond person sitting behind the counter of an empty jewelry store. Lo and behold, it was the chief tormentor. Although only 26, she looked closer to 40. Sun block wasn't a thing in the '80s, and all those years of perfect tans had caused a lot of damage. Gravity had also done its thing, so the perfect physique had been rearranged in unflattering ways. She'd never bothered to study much, preferring to coast on looks and cleavage to get passing grades. She'd dropped out of college to marry a man 18 years older, and thought she was going to live the dream. But her looks declined, the older man went looking for a new trophy, and without skills or a well-developed work ethic she wasn't positioned for future success.
My wife and I left with a profound sense of sadness. As I said, I'd never hated her despite the lousy treatment I'd received. Now I saw a person who'd had it all, but flamed-out way too young and was looking down the barrel of 50 years of regrets."
"I've just graduated, so it's been quite interesting to see exactly what everyone has been up to. So far, most of the 'cool kids' seem to be on the path to pretty unassuming, normal, average, lives.
A few of them have had kids, and if I give it another 4--5 years, I know that many more will have them, too.
Most of the popular guys got employed as mechanics or semi-skilled laborers. Others struggled, with one who used to bully me in middle school sending me a resume to work at my company (that was quite a power trip. I loved every second of it). Unfortunately, I could not hire him as I have enough part time employees to deal with my workload (Be nice to nerds, because someday you will work for one).
Another proclaimed that there is no point in living past high school, and has since completely abused his body and mind with drugs. He's 20 now and currently hangs out at parties trying to get with 14 and 15 year old girls. Kinda sad, but he was a pretentious d-bag. The 10 year reunion will be interesting to see what he got up to, granted he doesn't get himself killed or thrown in prison.
Almost none of them went to any sort of post secondary school for anything other than trades.
The vast majority of them just turned into pretty normal guys, with egos that deflated enough to have a decent conversation with them - rather than about them. That's been the biggest change I've found so far."
"Recently, I received a friend request on Facebook from a fellow who was, without question, the coolest and most popular kid at my high school forty years ago. He was tall, handsome, the quarterback for our football team, a heart-throb to legions of tongue-tied girls and an unattainable friend of every cool-kid-wannabe. This fellow embodied EVERY Hollywood stereotype of a 'cool kid' in high school.
His friend request surprised me, because we NEVER hung together and exchanged no more than three words during ALL of high school. We existed in COMPLETELY different realities.
While he strode confidently through the halls, surrounded by throngs of admiring young fans, my world was much more tenuous: a rickety and precarious thing, cobbled together from the conditional acceptance of a lamentable and easy-to-ignore segment of students. We were the unpopular 'never-gonna-be' group.
Curious, I clicked on his Facebook profile. The first thing I noticed was that he had acquired more than 1,500 friends. EVERYONE from our high school was there! This fellow's 'friend request' suddenly seemed like an attempt to ADD ME to an ever-expanding collection of living witnesses to his 'glory days' of yesteryear.
So, whatever happened to that cool kid from high school?
He's just an average, middle-aged guy now, living out his average, middle-class life. He's not special or remarkable anymore, at least not in the grand scheme of things. In fact, many of my 'never-gonna-be' friends have accomplished MUCH MORE than that cool kid ever did.
With a bit of sadness and nostalgia, I declined his request. I'm more than happy with my twelve Facebook friends."
"I just went to my high school 20 year reunion. Though I wasn't just another attendee, rather I was hired to DJ for the whole event.
First to clarify my position in the high school pecking order. I was what would be considered a weirdo. I didn't prescribe to any particular tribe. I had friends from many different social circles, yet I was never a 'cool' kid, nor even a well liked kid by most of my classmates. I never tried to fit in, I was just myself. At least I wasn't a victim, or rejected in school. I was also a pretty big class clown. I used humor to keep the more aggressive kids at bay (which worked). So going to my high school reunion was a trip, to put it mildly.
First thing I noticed, I forgot all about half the people I was acquaintances with (I only consider friends people that hung out with me outside of school). But here they were, the names I had let slip into the farther reaches of my memory banks, standing right in front of me, and a flood of memories came back. I realized I was a little more liked than I thought I was in school. Even some of the kids that used to tease me were being very friendly and genuinely happy to see me.
Admittedly I only spent a limited time conversing with everyone, as my job was to provide music. I started the night with a pre-made set list of Indie/Alternative/Rock from 1989 - 1997 while I ate dinner and caught up with everyone. Then as the night wore on and folks started drinking more, I switched it up and played a lot of Hip-Hop, House, Pop, etc. from the era. The coolest thing though was that a lot of my classmates would bring their own phones up for me to play their favorite music. But perhaps the coolest moment for me, was when the old scary crew came up and asked me very politely if I could play a soul track by The Impressions, from the '70s. It was their friend's favorite song, who was sadly gunned down when we were in school by a rival gang. I gladly played it, and for a moment I saw these usually incredibly hard, tough guys break down in tears on the dance floor.
This was the moment when I realized how stupid high school was, that we were all so separated by our various cliques, and cultural differences. But deep down, we were all just young human beings. With emotions, goals, desires, and vulnerabilities.
The cool kids in school ended up just like everyone else. With jobs, kids, married, some divorced. Some of us went on to do really cool things and some of us went on to DJ at our reunion."
"I live in a community containing a lot of retired people. It's like high school all over again, only 60 years later. Everybody's here, the nerds, jocks, cool people, and the king and queen of the prom.
The king and queen are now fat and ugly, the cool people are wrinkled, and the jocks are having a hard time accepting that the game is over and the nerds have won."
"Although I was athletic, I was a nerdy kid in high school and most of my friends were nerds, with the exception of one, my friend Brandon.
Brent and I graduated high school 35 years ago and went our separate directions, but we remained friends. He was definitely one of the cool kids, if not the coolest kid. He was a rebel, and did a lot of those things that your parents told you not to do. He was a ladies man, a hard partier, and wasn't afraid to get in a fight if it was for the right reason (like defending a young ladies honor). What was interesting about Brandon is that I can't recollect him ever putting down another human being - he genuinely saw the good in everyone.
I hadn't seen Brandon for over 10 years, but this weekend we attended a board game convention in Dallas together (a shared passion) and we spent some quality time hanging out together.
Let me say that he hasn't changed one bit. Well - I have to take that back - he isn't the ladies man anymore due to the fact he is married ... but he is as cool and likable as ever. He probably introduced me to more than a hundred people he was on a first name basis with, and still sees the good in everyone.
It really restored my faith in humanity seeing how much this wonderful person I have known for over 40 years hasn't changed."
"There's this girl in my high school, and she is probably the most beautiful person anyone would ever meet. And she wasn't just beautiful in the physical way; she was beautiful in any way imaginable. She had the potential to become anything she wanted. She could have been a runway model, she was gorgeous. She was one of the best athletes at our school. She was smart, funny, outgoing, probably the most popular student, and literally a perfect human being.
If you asked anyone in the school who the most beautiful person attending this institution was, they would answer with her name. She was someone that everyone expected to succeed. But if you asked her what she was going to do when she graduates, she says that she's going to go into real estate like her mom did. She says that she's going to stay in this small suburban town. She says that she's going to lead an average life, because that's all she can amount to.
The most amazing person I had ever met said that she wasn't going to succeed, because she believed she's one of the people who 'peaked' in high school. That she's not going to amount to anything because stereotypical white-popular girls don't amount to anything.
The cool kids in high school are just like you and me. Some of them are going to make it to the big leagues, some don't. Some dream that they will, and others don't bother to dream at all. Your high school social status doesn't play a part in anything except the influences that stereotypes impose upon us."
"My brother was a 'cool kid' in high school. A stylish, charismatic guy with many impressive skills; he was popular with the guys and girls alike. He was a basketball player, he played the guitar and had a band for some of his time at school. He also liked to act in the annual school play. There wasn't a kid in my high school who didn't know his name.
He was a bit of a class clown, always with a joke ready. He dated the 'hot' girls and hung out with the other jocks. He bullied a few kids and even started a pretty nasty rumor about me one time that took an entire school year to die out. He was the king at school and there wasn't a day I didn't see it.
After school his life took some serious turns. He didn't put enough focus on his academic life and as a result didn't really prepare enough for college. He ended up going to community for a few semesters but ended up having some trouble keeping up.
Now, don't get me wrong. My brother is very smart and can learn or do anything he puts his mind to. He could easily have been a straight-A student. He just wasn't interested in it at all and as a result ended up dropping out within a few years.
His goals shifted, he made the sort of mistakes many of us do when we're young and he fell in and out of different crowds. He started working odd jobs in construction or painting. He still chased after the 'popular' spoiled girls and only wanted to drive the coolest cars.
On paper, it really looked like my brother was screwing up his life. People made such nasty comments and almost took joy in watching the 'cool kid' fail and fall on his face. Fast forward 12 years.
My brother is now a stable, secure man. Still has that great style, that charisma and wit. Only now, he manages a financial office and has just been offered a position that will put him on track to becoming the CFO of a well-respected company just after his 30th birthday.
He has a lovely home, a wife and a happy little dog. He is a philanthropist, volunteering his time every week without fail and he has grown into a remarkable musician.
He is now kind to the family, has tried to right every wrong he ever did to anybody. So you see, it's not all black and white.
Life is a lot more like a slow-burning indie film that tells the other side of a story. One full of mistakes, learning the hard way and of course, second chances.
For me, my brother has never been more cool."
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