I Was Never Cool in School…

Inspired by:Underground” (1995) from the Ben Folds Five album Ben Folds Five


This song reminds me of high school, or more specifically, thinking about high school on the verge of my ten year high school reunion a while ago. It’s the song’s opening lines:

I was never cool in school
I’m sure you don’t remember me
And now it’s been 10 years
I’m still wondering who to be
But I’d love to mix in circles, cliques, and social coteries, that’s me
Hand me my nose ring (Can we be happy?)
Show me the mosh pit (Can we be happy?)
We can be happy underground

“Underground,” written by Ben Folds

Aside from the nose ring*, I feel like this describes high school me pretty well. A mostly unforgettable existence where I was fairly known among the various social groups hung out with but not known to the wider population of the school. Part of this was due to being one of 2,000 kids or so in the school, and among the 700 or so kids in my graduating class, but also because I just didn’t care about being popular. For that reason, I kind of hated high school (in retrospect) and fled Utah because I didn’t want to simply be a “townie” that followed everyone to the University of Utah or whatever.

*I did pierce my tongue towards the end of high school, but that thing lasted a little less than a year because I decided to join the Army and it also got super annoying.

Does this make me special? Not particularly. I like to think that I had some experiences unique to kids in my class, but I also really only knew like 15% of the kids on any sort of level, and only half of them I cared about with any kind of wanting to really know them.

I missed the five-year reunion of my class because our class officers were kind of duds and I suppose they were the ones that were supposed to manage those types of things. From what I’ve been told, it was a pretty informal affair at a park. But I was pretty excited to go to the ten-year reunion, because it seemed like a few people that I cared about were happy to potentially see me.

I had kept in contact with a handful of folks through the magic of social media over the years, and in 2009 (when the reunion was scheduled), I was going through a pretty rough patch, as well as preparing to go to Iraq. Even if I was only going to see two or three of the people that I wanted to see, it seemed like a fine time to travel back to Utah, especially since I was already going to be in town for my sister’s wedding. I never did make it to that reunion, however, as a scheduling conflict with the venue choice pushed it off the original date to a date that I would be in Army training in Kentucky. Probably didn’t really miss that much, and I ended up reconnecting with one of the people that was looking forward to seeing me after I returned from Iraq anyway… at a Ben Folds concert no less! (She was not nearly as impressed in Mr. Folds as I thought she would be).

I did, however, make it to the 20-year reunion for what it’s worth, which was pretty easy to do since I was back in Utah. Kim and I got a sitter for the night and decided to go hang out in the “common area” at my old high school and observe all the “cool kids” I didn’t like in high school talk to each other, while the real cool kids who didn’t peak in high school just hung around and talked to some other people. Some I knew from high school, some I didn’t, and one that I knew from all the way back in elementary school (and church stuff growing up). It was a mostly forgettable experience summed up from me that night on Facebook (you should follow the link to see further discussion in the comments about how dumb high school was):

Some quick thoughts on high school reunions:

1) if you have 600+ people in your graduating class, chances are you aren’t going to recognize/know 90% of them if you see them on Facebook or in real life.
2) Some people would benefit from spending a quarter of their life (or more) living more than a few hours away from where they went to high school. Marrying your high school sweetheart is cool if you then decide to traipse around the country after. But live your life, I guess.
3) Those same people that should live far away really peaked in high school, or at least seem to think that the petty nonsense that happened in high school somehow defines the next 20 years of their life. What happened in high school is a pretty insignificant part of your life once it’s 20 years in the past. The sooner you realize that, the easier it is to just leave it in the past.
4) I admit it’s a pretty small sample size, but Mormon-pattern baldness is definitely a thing.

Me, September 21, 2019

I have friends from high school that had a much different experience in high school, and that’s perfectly fine. Everyone is entitled to their own lived experiences. It just wasn’t my jam and that’s perfectly fine. I never felt like fit in anywhere, because I wasn’t really that good in band, I found things like debate too late, and I spent a lot of time working so my social life was pretty empty for the most part. It’s one of the reasons why it was so easy for me to find a girl on the internet (the first time) and an excuse to leave Utah behind – even if I didn’t feel like it would be forever – and try something new.

The first time back didn’t stick; I was here for two and a half years before I needed to get away again, though that ended up being temporary. But we’ve been back in Utah for almost eight years at this point, and that wanderlust is starting up again and one of the reasons we need to leave. And this time might be for good, and I’m fine with that.

All this to say is that the song “Underground” makes me think about hating life in high school. I have few regrets, but among the biggest that I have is that I cared about anything that happened in high school at all, that I thought it meant something grand about what my life was going to become. I don’t know how anything would change with the knowledge I have now, but if I could send some message to young Bobby, I would tell him to let it all go, drop band after sophomore year, join the debate team sooner, and maybe things would have been better. But I also don’t want that to ruin what I have now, so maybe it’s best to leave it all in the past where it belongs.

4 thoughts on “I Was Never Cool in School…

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