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What Happened To You?
July 4, 2010 2:23 PM   Subscribe

When a person graduates high school as one of the top students, all sorts of grand predictions are made for the person's future. But how many of them end up doing the things predicted of them? The Buffalo News did a feature in 2007 on what the top students in the Buffalo area from 1987 ended up doing after high school. Some of them have done remarkable things, while others have made their mark in smaller ways, all are interesting in their own way.
posted by reenum (57 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's clear that none of them went to work for Buffalo News, or surely we wouldn't have to navigate a clumsy Flash interface with craptastic graphics. I mean, seriously, isn't Flash supposed to present an interface superior to HMTL/CSS/etc.? This is a pretty sad and underwhelming use of Flash.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 2:34 PM on July 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


For Michael Sutfin:

.

Poor kid. What a fucking horrible, pointless way to die.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:40 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


They all seem to be doing amazingly well. It's only been just short of ten years for my graduating class (2001) but the majority of my classmates (almost all of them are on Facebook) seem to be

1) working dead-end minimum wage jobs (One of my classmates recently got 20 "likes" for landing a job at Walmart)

or

2) Working at a bar/club to pay child support while touring in a band with a name like GRAVESIDE WHORES or something.

or

3) struggling with a horrifying drug addiction

or

4) pregnant with her fourth child

The funny thing is, none of us came from "poor" backgrounds. My school was located in a relatively well-to-do suburb of San Fransisco and almost all my classmates came from professional, upper-middle-class families (including myself) -- yet it seems like the majority of us just .... I dunno .... missed the bus somehow.

Is it the economy? Just our generation? I honestly don't know.
posted by Avenger at 2:44 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was a top student in my graduating class and have had a hell of a time struggling through college due to anxiety and panic disorders. Sometimes I think the pressure coming from school, parents, and family made the path that much more difficult, since I was "supposed to" succeed easily. I still struggle with the fact that I feel like I've failed to follow my intended path.
posted by rachaelfaith at 2:48 PM on July 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


Avenger: yes it's the economy. I'm in the Bay Area as well and it's not just your friends.
posted by wuwei at 3:08 PM on July 4, 2010


The valedictorian from my class killed himself the first semester at an upper-tier school. Quite a few of the rest seemed to have done well for themselves, however.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:19 PM on July 4, 2010


My school was enormous (1,133 in my graduating class) and didn't weight GPAs in its Valedictorian calculation, so I sat through fourteen valedictions-- fourteen shining faces extolling the virtues of questioning everything or observing the world around us. Most of them are working in business now; a couple are in grad school. They're doing well for themselves, as are these folks from Buffalo, but these wunderkind aren't going to become the captains of industry or the Nobel Laureates that we all thought they would. The Time Magazine writer, the Fulbright scholar, the two National Science Foundation fellows, and every single one of the medical students came from the lower ranks.

It makes me wonder if all those laurels are actually fetters.
posted by The White Hat at 3:25 PM on July 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


It's been eleven years since I finished high school, and I could tell you literally nothing about anyone's post-HS life except one old friend whose family I've known for ages. Now I kinda want to go find out what happened to people.

Oh, wait. Curiosity passed. Back to normal.
posted by Mikey-San at 3:33 PM on July 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


> Now I kinda want to go find out what happened to people.

I spent an hour one afternoon at work with a dummy Facebook account viewing profiles of people who were in my graduating class that I hadn't seen or heard from since high school. Curiosity quenched, anonymous style.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:40 PM on July 4, 2010


It's only been just short of ten years for my graduating class (2001)...Is it the economy? Just our generation? I honestly don't know.

I graduated in 2001, from a high school located in a well-off neighborhood in Oregon. I'm an outlier, but most of my classmates went to college, got decent entry level jobs (soul-sucking, boring jobs, but at least they pay the bills and aren't manual labor for the most part), got married, and had at least one kid. Most of our generation got out of college before the crash (most would have graduated with their bachelor's by 2005).

But the people from the original article were the class of '87. Give our class until 2024 before we start comparing our achievements! I'm sure the class of '87 didn't look like they were doing so amazingly well a mere 9 years after graduation.
posted by asciident at 3:51 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to my 20th high school reunion in 2006, and was suspicious about a lot of the stories people were telling me about their lives. First off, out of a class of 611, only about 70 actually attended the reunion. And all those who attended seemed to fall into two groups -- either they were in the "soc" cheerleader/football crowd, or they were the shop class/home ed students. Basically zero of the freaks-n-geeks crowd or the orchestra/band/chorus kids showed up. And everyone who claimed to be doing something amazing with their lives had actual stories to tell about their work. The guy who said he was a helicopter pilot working in medevac refused to share any details about his work -- no "tales from the trenches" or anything. He was passing this off as modesty, but it made me suspicious. The woman who said she was working for a high-powered publisher didn't have any business cards to pass out, even though most people I've met who really work in publishing are always eager to give you a business card if you ask for one. Etc etc etc.

As for myself, attending the reunion was yet another step in my lifelong coming out process. It was rewarding to see these people again feeling much more like a whole person than I was in high school, when I was conflicted and closeted (even to myself), and a lot of life didn't make sense.

Overall, the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. It felt false. Less like a homecoming and more like some kind of strange zoo exhibit where the animals were also the visitors. I don't know if I'll bother with my 30th. Especially if none of my friends from then show up like they did the 20th.

On a side note -- the brilliant music student / über-geek from my high school class has actually made something of himself. Jeremy Denk is his name, and he's been making a big splash as a concert pianist in the NYC area and beyond. He recently played a show along with Sting and some other people. I follow his exploits in the pages of the New Yorker. It's amusing to think that I "knew him when".
posted by hippybear at 4:22 PM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


The referenced article was from 2007. I wonder how many of these 'best and brightest' have since lost their jobs or are struggling to keep their businesses going.
posted by grounded at 5:08 PM on July 4, 2010


Ugh. Is this the place we record all of our lives to make our current existences more bearable?

I thought this was Metafilter.
posted by vhsiv at 5:14 PM on July 4, 2010


It may be just my mood buuuuuuuuut
posted by The Whelk at 5:19 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Basically zero of the freaks-n-geeks crowd or the orchestra/band/chorus kids showed up

My ten-year reunion was in April, and I did not attend, but from pictures on facebook, this seemed to be the case for my reunion as well. My friends were the freaks-n-geeks art/music/writing/weirdo crowd and although I am only in touch with a few of them, it is as though we all signed a pact to not attend. The married, pregnant girls who used to be popular cheerleader types? They were the ones who were there. Once a joiner, always a joiner, I guess. Our grown-up version of sitting under the bleachers at a mandatory football game is eschewing the reunion.
posted by millipede at 5:32 PM on July 4, 2010


It makes me wonder if all those laurels are actually fetters.

You're so smart you probably think this post is about you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:33 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I spent an hour one afternoon at work with a dummy Facebook account viewing profiles of people who were in my graduating class that I hadn't seen or heard from since high school. Curiosity quenched, anonymous style.

I'm afraid to do this not because it would seem a little creeper, but because I might be tempted into using Facebook. Dangerous, slippery slope there. One day, you're finding out what happened to people, but before you know it you're hopelessly addicted to people's walls and FarmVille. A year later, your FB-junkie girlfriend finds you OD'ed on seeds in your shitty, dingy bathroom and the only thing people remember you for is whatever your last status update was.

It was probably about FarmVille.
posted by Mikey-San at 5:39 PM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now I kinda want to go find out what happened to people.

Funny where life takes you. Today, I finally found my mentor, the incoming boss sent from the head office who swooped into a stagnant satellite and turned the place around. This was '78 and I was a summer intern. Such was the brilliance of this man that I quit college and never looked back. He took me under his wing and off to other locations across the US to help turn those properties around too, showing me the ropes of the business, certainly increasing my paycheck and along the way teaching me - what before I might have cynically shrugged off - that a man's word is his bond. We parted ways in '81 when he was asked to helm a major magazine. I expected he'd be publisher in short order, such was his charisma.

I always wanted to thank him for the difference he made in my life. Looked for him now and then but searches always came up empty even though his name was very unique. Today, just a few hours ago, I found him. On a website's video clip. He was at a podium, big as the John Wayne figure I remember, maybe a little stooped, telling an audience of the hardships Vietnam vets face out in the streets and thanking this group for the gift of finally having a roof over his head.

Guess we have a lot to catch up on. Turns out he's just one state away. Emailed the site contact and hoping we can meet. Just thanking him is a bit down the list now.

Funny where life takes you sidenote: I now work for a specialty vehicle manufacturer. We designed and built 50 mobile health outreach vehicles, complete with showers, gurneys and case management areas, delivered to the VA. One in his area.
posted by hal9k at 5:47 PM on July 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


A brief blow through of all the profiles made me think that the majority of these folks did meet expectations. They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, etc. A college degree and 20 years gets you into that comfortable realm of middle class. They have bills to pay, and they have relationship troubles, and they think back and wonder about what if it had been different.

But remember, what was presented were the half that were willing to respond. There's another half of the group who doesn't want to be reminded of how things have gone, or who thinks it's BS to do these kinds of comparisons, or who got out of Buffalo and never want to think about that life again, or a host of other good reasons.

I think we tend to ask strangers "What do you do?", but we ask friends "How are you doing?". We should probably focus on the "How are you doing?" with everyone and hope that the answer is "I'm doing fine."
posted by Edward L at 5:54 PM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think we tend to ask strangers "What do you do?", but we ask friends "How are you doing?". We should probably focus on the "How are you doing?" with everyone and hope that the answer is "I'm doing fine."

Amen for this! I for one am tired of being asked "What do you do?" I can either lie and say "I'm working at an awesome job that's satisfying and allows me to satisfy my material needs and wants," or I can be honest and say "I work at a job that makes me want to put a bullet through my head."

I wish we were more receptive to negative responses to the "How are you doing?" question, though. Very few people's lives are good right now.
posted by Anima Mundi at 6:54 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's why it's better to say "as-salaamu 'alaikum".
posted by Burhanistan at 7:38 PM on July 4, 2010


"A bore is someone who, when you ask them how they are, actually tells you."
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:40 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish we were more receptive to negative responses to the "How are you doing?" question, though

Yeah, thats the problem. When something bad happens, all those "how are you" questions are kind of annoying, because you know no one besides your friends wants the truth, but it's hard to just smile and say "fine" or whatever. So without a change in expectations, it doesn't accomplish anything.

(Right now, the answer to "what do you do?" for me is positive, while "how are you doing" is pretty damn horrible [for, obviously, non-work-related-reasons], so...)
posted by wildcrdj at 7:41 PM on July 4, 2010


Bore, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen. (Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:50 PM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


20 years out my high school class has turned out rather better than I would have thought. The real deals proved out -- the conspicuously smart and ambitious are successful in business or academia, the conspicuously smart and cool either went corporate to good effect or have kept the cool faith (but managing respectable families and careers too. Maybe not surprising. What's been for lack of a better word heartwarming has been to see how well the rest did -- people who weren't quite up to the standard of smart/ambitious or smart/cool, and not a few far short of the mark -- who have great businesses, jobs, public service, etc., going on.

Guess we were a lucky bunch.
posted by MattD at 8:58 PM on July 4, 2010


The impression I get of these "top students" is that, with a few exceptions, they performed pretty much in line with what would expect of someone from their communities and backgrounds. I would be very surprised if the futures of this "top tier" were substantially different than the next tier-- those who were college bound but not 1st or 2nd in the class and did not otherwise receive "most likely to succeed"-type accolades: you have a few high performers/outliers with the wide majority doing pretty much stuff in line with the environment in which they were raised.

I graduated high school in '92. I do wonder how much the fact that we graduated college into a major boom time affected our ultimate outcomes.
posted by deanc at 9:55 PM on July 4, 2010


my graduating class (2001) but the majority of my classmates ... seem to be ... working dead-end minimum wage jobs ....

You graduated at one of the worst times for jobs in the SF Bay Area. It was absolutely awful in 2002, well ahead of the national economy tanking later.
posted by zippy at 10:20 PM on July 4, 2010


For more of this kind of thing, see the Up documentaries. (Link goes to Ebert review)
posted by Harald74 at 11:02 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am from the class of 87 and one of the people in that piece is a friend-of-a-friend (not in the urban legend way). The people I went to school with here in Buffalo have gone on to the same level of success: teachers, govt workers, housewives, etc.

For a different spin on "where are they now 20 years later", take a look at TV Land's High School Reunion. Glenn and I used to play D&D together.
posted by jdfan at 2:23 AM on July 5, 2010


Filler by Ian MacKaye/Minor Threat, 1981
What happened to you?
You're not the same
Something in your head
Made a violent change
It's in your head
FILLER
You call it religion
You're full of shit
Was she really worth it?
She cost you your life
You'll never leave her side
She's gonna be your wife
You call it romance
You're full of shit
Your brain is clay
What's going on?
You picked up a bible
And now you're gone
You call it religion
You're full of shit
FILLER
Class of '85
posted by vhsiv at 4:27 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


High-end private boarding school graduating class of 60 or so back in 1987; went back three years ago for reunion and discovered quite unsurprisingly that most of the folks in my class have done pretty well in the interim -- lots of lawyers, doctors and execs but a few odd ducks as well (said the guy who went on to write science fiction novels).

Perhaps it seems a bit shallow to put it this way but one of the things that made me happiest at my 20th reunion was not how well members of the class were doing in a professional sense -- a lot of that is contingent on outside factors which have nothing to do with the person themselves -- but that by and large so many of them seemed genuinely happy with themselves and their lives. I think as you get older you do realize that being happy and comfortable with yourself (which is different than smug and self-satisfied) is in fact a pretty good thing. Life does what it does to you, both positively and negatively, but if you've got yourself together it maximizes the good and minimizes the bad.

I wouldn't have laid odds on so many of my classmates being so well-adjusted 20 years on. I'm glad they were.
posted by jscalzi at 6:30 AM on July 5, 2010


Mike, the one guy from from high school who did anything of note. Shocked the hell out of me.
posted by MikeMc at 7:54 AM on July 5, 2010


I went to my friend's country High School graduation, something like 1500 people that year (not including those who didn't meet requirements). It was a big place. Some are chugging along, some disappeared to do their own thing, but the bulk, something like 60% died in the first ten years. I thought he was shitting me, when he told me this, but we picked out 30 people (fairly randomly) from the yearbook, and found a whole lot of obit.s.

Some of the expected stuff, car wrecks, drunken shenanigans, and general misfortune, but some more bizarre (from city standings anyway) like combine thresher, or fell in a crevasse. I have my own periodic reunion coming up, and I'm pretty sure that if I didn't go to my own damn grad, I ain't going to no reunion.
posted by LD Feral at 7:57 AM on July 5, 2010


okay, you people are making me use my seekrit dummy facebookery to find my high school peers. I put on the blame on anything I find out on you.
posted by The Whelk at 8:09 AM on July 5, 2010


So far I have found would seems to be a sad bog of 90s nostalgia.


There should never be 90s nostalgia.
posted by The Whelk at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2010


Goddmanit I couldn't these peoples names when I went to school with them how do you expect me to remember them now?
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on July 5, 2010


Huh ...I am getting ...no memory triggers at all. Names, faces. Blank. It was less than a decade ago, what is up with my brain?
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2010


...and we'll ignore the slightly unsettling fact that everyone seemed to go to the same college. (which was one of the main reasons I didn't go to that college)
posted by The Whelk at 8:23 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


what is up with my brain?

Too much acid?
posted by MikeMc at 8:27 AM on July 5, 2010


shut up glowing breathing wallpaper I can't talk to you now
posted by The Whelk at 8:30 AM on July 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Man, three pages and I've recognized one name. I don't get it, I wasn't a wallflower or even particularly nerdly/introverted, I was in clubs! I did after-school activities! I fenced! I was a joiner! And yet ...this leaves me cold.

Also the babies picture thing? Is that a thing? I don't want it to be.
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on July 5, 2010


also the number of people who have seemingly never left New Jersey is depressing me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 AM on July 5, 2010


also the number of people who have seemingly never left New Jersey is depressing me.

Over the last year I've come back into contact with a number of people from high school, most of them are still in the area (25 years since graduation in 2011). Some, like me, left and came back but it seems most never left at all. No place like home I guess.
posted by MikeMc at 8:59 AM on July 5, 2010


So ...in summary. My graduating class is -


Babies.

DeVry.

Air Force Academy.

A Sincere Love Of Phish

In A Band

Into Motorcycles And/Or glittery hair clips.

Married.

Surprisingly Gay.

Military Linguist?

Very Invested In Their Biceps.

Married.

and are ...Firemen? And ..what Working for Fox News? What? Who the hell was that and can I go back in time and pants him?
posted by The Whelk at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2010


So ...in summary. My graduating class is -


Babies.

DeVry.

Air Force Academy.

A Sincere Love Of Phish Iron Maiden

In A Band

Into Motorcycles And/Or glittery hair clips.

Married.

UnSurprisingly Gay.

Military Linguist?

Very Invested In Their Biceps.

Married.
posted by MikeMc at 9:07 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Checking into the Robotics Club....yep. just as I thought.


Lotta Warcraft.
posted by The Whelk at 9:09 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But my overall impression is that Facebook is for jocks and ladies with babies, at least in that socio-economic geographic sliver.
posted by The Whelk at 9:12 AM on July 5, 2010


Oh hey it's that dude who tormented me freshmen year.

Those are unfortunate tattoos.
posted by The Whelk at 9:14 AM on July 5, 2010


This is pretty depressing.
posted by limeonaire at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2010


The Whelk: are you liveblogging your exploits or what? Seriously.
posted by squeakyfromme at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2010


Get thee to Twitter and stop polluting MeFi with useless personal anecdote.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:05 AM on July 5, 2010


I was a top student in my graduating class and have had a hell of a time struggling through college due to anxiety and panic disorders. Sometimes I think the pressure coming from school, parents, and family made the path that much more difficult, since I was "supposed to" succeed easily. I still struggle with the fact that I feel like I've failed to follow my intended path.
_______________________________________________

It makes me wonder if all those laurels are actually fetters.

I'm only three years out of being valedictorian in high school, but my first two years at college were a panicked disaster as well. Success at my high school was brain dead easy. Success at college has been a combination of mild medication, feminist revelations, redefining success, and making friends.

It took a while to get going, but I feel pretty confident in what I will be able to do once I graduate.
posted by rubah at 12:29 PM on July 5, 2010


MetaFilter: a combination of mild medication, feminist revelations, redefining success, and making friends.
posted by hippybear at 12:37 PM on July 5, 2010


I hate to see where I would be without it!
posted by rubah at 12:50 PM on July 5, 2010


The Whelk, no offense, or anything, but you're going to need to put some stuff in your updates about 2 Russian friends being lured into the sex trade if you want me to keep tuning in.
posted by staggering termagant at 3:51 PM on July 5, 2010



also the number of people who have seemingly never left New Jersey is depressing me.


Yeah...I went to a very small, catholic prep-school in northern nj. graduated with about 80 bright kids from affluent, upperMC families. and soooooo many of them are still living up there, with 3 or 4 kids. ak! you'd think the bright people with resources and opportunities (we had about 99% attend university) would want to get out in the world or something?

the mere fact that I moved to California impresses people, when its really not actually an accomplishment in itself....
posted by supermedusa at 2:18 PM on July 6, 2010


graduated in 1986, so lots of time has passed...
posted by supermedusa at 2:30 PM on July 6, 2010


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