An old friend who is a serious comic book collector flattered me recently by likening me to the character Oracle. For those of you, like me, who aren’t intimately familiar with the DC universe, Oracle is the nom de guerre of Barbara Gordon, librarian, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, and the former Batgirl.
I will pardon if you haven’t quite seen the likeness yet. And I promise I have a reason besides my own vanity for relating this.
As Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, she is shot through the spinal cord by the Joker. Paralyzed from the waist down, she is relegated to a wheelchair, and retreats from her crime-fighting past. Eventually, though, in response to her straitened physical circumstances, she emerges from the shell the wounding has put her in and turns her prodigious intellect, remarkable memory, research abilities, and knowledge of computers to a new role as an information broker, backing Batman, Nightwing (the former Robin), and the Birds of Prey and helping them succeed in fighting crime from behind the scenes.
While I feel like I’ve lost a fair number of IQ points and I’m not the hacker that Oracle is portrayed as, I do have pretty good Google-fu, a detail orientation, a gift for finding connections, a severely overdeveloped sense of justice, and a whole heck of a lot of time on my hands, being mostly bedridden. And as my energy level has improved a little in the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to help the above-mentioned friend with some computer- and web-based tasks, and that’s led me to take on some other low-stress outside projects.
Not for Batman. At least not yet. Sorry.
Next year will be my high school graduating class’s mumbly-mumpth reunion. Earlier in the summer, our class president re-activated a facebook group for us, and I asked him if I could help us start to prepare by looking people up on facebook. Barring a miracle, I won’t be able to go, of course, but I thought it would be nice to feel as if I contributed to helping others to enjoy the event.
I’m sorry I won’t get a chance to go to the party, because I had a great time at the last one in 2003, dancing with the theatre/visual art/mod crowd to all our shared subcultures’ alterna-hits, and at one point, one of the former art types, wearing a hot pink paisley shift and big stompy boots up to her knees, yelled over a Violent Femmes song into my ear, “ALL THE PEOPLE WHO MADE FUN OF ME FOR WEARING BLACK ALL THE TIME ARE WEARING BLACK TONIGHT!”
You can’t buy irony like that.
Anyway, I’d done something like this previously, looking 120 people up for my high school theatre’s facebook page, and it wasn’t difficult – a bit tedious, but it is fun to see what people have done with their lives. Okay, yes, it’s also fun because I’m a total creeper.
So that’s what I’ve been spending a chunk of my time doing of late, kicking up the old tendinitis in my hands in the process, which has kept me away from writing here. One of the things that’s hardest about being this sick is how utterly useless it makes you feel, so I love that I’m actually accomplishing something useful – something more than posting weird links and cat videos to my old friends on facebook.
I knew off the top of my head how big my graduating class was – 580+ people (I went to what was at the time the second-largest secondary school in Virginia). When I started typing the names into the spreadsheet from the yearbook, I figured it was going to be a big task, but I guess I didn’t figure on the difference in importance I’d internalize between looking up people to invite to a facebook page that there’s no real deadline on and the higher-stakes game of tracking people down for A Big Reunion. And this task is a little tougher, because I have fewer mutual friends to help things along than I did with the theatre crowd.
Looking at profile after profile has been interesting – and has made me feel unexpectedly wistful. I’m not the kind of person for whom high school was the high point of my life, but because I was well then and I’m sick now, I think I probably look back on it with more nostalgia than I used to. It’s easier now to look past how much I resented the regimentation we were forced into and the depression I suffered at the time and just remember all the things my former vitality made possible.
And there is something about the fact that these are the people with whom our topics of conversation and shared experiences were the milestones of adolescence, what were to that point big events in our lives: our crazy driver’s ed road instructors, how long until the date we could get our licenses, how many times to take the SATs, if and where we’d managed to land summer jobs, surviving AP classes, pulling our hair out over college applications, anticipating prom, and the great launching and subsequent diaspora that was graduation.
Now, trying to pick out my classmates from the sometimes-sea of similar names on facebook, I find that we’re still living our lives in a similar kind of sync; the signs of being same-age peers from a shared hometown are good tells. I often bet right by choosing the profile that pictures one or sometimes two beaming children’s faces below a certain age, notes a government or defense career path, or shows allegiance to a Virginia university. I’ve been struck, too, by the progress many others have made in their careers. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, as we’re all edging into our late 30s, but people are well into leadership in a lot of cases. And:
- The guy voted “Most Likely to Succeed” indeed has his own law practice.
- “Most Eccentric” no longer has green hair and also works in law.
- “Prettiest Eyes” is a newscaster, and in Googling her I discovered that there are whole websites devoted to saying offensive and degrading things about female newscasters, worse than you’d ever hear whispered behind the cover of a locker door.
Never let it be said that creeping never taught anyone anything.
Yes, I know I’m getting a biased sample – people are probably not going to crow about their non-accomplishments, unhappy relationships, and mid-life crises on facebook, but it’s a cross-section of my peers, and for me personally, one of the things that that is another reminder of a couple kinds of life progress that the disease slowed and then totally stymied. September always makes me feel a little wistful anyhow, because it’s been a transition point in my life so many times. This is just amplifying it.
But let’s not dwell on all that too long, right? I have
crime to fight a spreadsheet to finish.