In which it’s OK to not be No. 1

I hate to admit the Goddess is getting old, but our 20-year high-school reunion took place over Thanksgiving. Oh, my lands — two decades already?

I bought a ticket but didn’t go. Never planned to, really. Besides, I’ll be in another part of Pennsylvania later this month, so doing the Pittsburgh thing wasn’t ever really on my Christmas wish list.

Lately as I examine my life and wonder where on earth to go from here (and how to get there), I recall a girl I knew in high school who influenced my life, but probably not in a good way. And no, I don’t mean the bad kids who got me drinking and smoking when I was 11. 🙂

The girl who was supposed to graduate in the No. 2 spot was a perfectionist, to say the least. When the rest of us were taking honors classes, she stayed far away — lest she mess up her perfect-100% GPA. I did find that the “weighted” classes both helped and hurt me — I had a couple of 106% grades, and then there was that software-writing class I took through the local Penn State branch that I totally bombed.

Either way, I did what I wanted and I’m glad I tried it all.

This gal, I remember she used to break out in hives when we were taking tests, standardized or otherwise. She would rub her neck raw.

She didn’t get that No. 2 spot, which I think killed a very big part of her spirit. But she went off to some Big Ten school and that was that.

I heard she lost it and had to go into psychiatric treatment for a while. I last saw her working at the local amusement park. She may still be there, for all we know.

Sad really. Big, brilliant mind. Just got in her own way, I guess.

The takeaway for me was to just go out and do what I wanted to do. Not to kill myself studying. To go out with friends and let loose. To do my level best NOT to turn into a basket case.

Don’t get me wrong — I worked my ass off when I needed to. But I really don’t remember the small stuff that I blew off. Yet … I always wonder. I should have been a Fortune 500 CEO by now instead of a middle-management mushroom who hides in the dark.

I used to rail against people who worked their eight hours, took their lunch breaks, took their vacations and attended to their kids while I shouldered the load and lost out on time with my family or even by myself. Fuck them, I thought — I’m going to kick ass and put them out of a job.

These days, after being put out of a job ANYWAY two years ago this month, I don’t care so much about the “leave at 5” crowd. When I stay late, it’s because I need the quiet time. But at 8 p.m., I stand up and go — to hell with what’s unfinished.

But when Taco Tuesday rolled up like it did last week, I pulled out the Fuck-it Bucket and went. (What’s another two hours tacked on to the end of the workday, anyway?)

And when someone like my old publisher rolls through town and wants to go out for drinks (as happened Wednesday) and one of my boys asks me out to dinner before I was to head off to a Christmas party (as happened Friday), well, to all a good night. My staff/colleagues teased me about having a half-day as I jetted out at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Friday, well, I was brushing my teeth at 5 and trying to not look like a hot mess before meeting the cute boy for my eye-candy appetizer at 5:15.

Anyway, I have the gal in high school to thank for that. I just didn’t realize it until recently. All work and no play makes Goddess a very dull deity indeed. And besides, I have more than my share of 8 p.m. or later weeknight departures to have earned it.

And guess what? The world didn’t end with all the work that was undone. I mean, I’m paying for it now and in a big way. But the memories make it all worthwhile.

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