As you know, I think of nothing besides my upcoming high school reunion and beating Jeremy Coon. Last night I was shopping at the Whole Foods in Richardson, and the cashier asked me the hackneyed grocery store question - "plastic or paper" - and I instinctively asked, "Well, which one does Jeremy Coon not want me to have?" It ended up being paper.
Yes, I came back to Richardson for Thanksgiving, and I'm still here for a few more hours. Inevitably, this gets me thinking overdrive about our 10-year reunion, what's at stake, and who the competition is. There's Jeremy Coon, yes, but there's also Grace Chen, who apparently is the President of Miramax Shanghai, or the CEO, or the head of it, or the main boss, or something like that.
There are surgeons and brain surgeons (Eric Kavosh and Steven Pan), and there are my successful friends, whom I don't consider to be competition because they are allies forever: Nick Stevens, who is one of the coolest guys in the world, and is a graphic designer in Stockholm. Casey McLauchlin, I just found, has every young boy's dream job--he tests (plays) video games for a living. Leon Chen and Tiffani Taylor jointly own a cookie delivery business in Austin called Tiffani's Treats. And many others, all ridiculously unfathomable insanely fabulous success stories.
I stay focused on Jeremy Coon because his area of success is closest to where I want mine to be: making movies. I want to be a writer/director, not a producer/editor, but that still makes Jeremy Coon more troubling re-unionwise than Grace Chen, since being the president of a movie company frankly sounds like the most horrible job in the world to me.
President of movies? That's like saying you're the King of the Lanes or Duke of the Driving Range or the Prime Minster of Fine Steaks. Basically all you're saying is that you're a nutcase. Not that Grace Chen is. I'm just glad I don't call myself the President of Movies, because I would have a real hard time backing that up.
Being in Richardson has also made me question my assumptions. This whole blog is based on the premise that Berkner High School is having it's high school reunion in the summer of 2007. But I haven't actually received any sort of letter confirming this. Why did I assume Berkner was having a ten year reunion, and that it would be in the summer? It didn't have a five year reunion, and some high schools have that. What if the reunion isn't until 2017? Or 3007?? Or what if it was today and I missed it?
Those worries aside, I have done a lot of pondering about the city of Richardson itself, where I lived from age 11 until I moved to Austin for college. It's not quite the same as growing up here, since the 0 - 11 honor belongs to Irving, another suburb of Dallas. But it was pretty formative, nevertheless, and has something to do with who I am today. All the more so for people who actually did grow up here from 0 - 18, or longer. Maybe Richardson hasn't really had too many more success stories than other random suburbs, but it seems to, so here is the theory I've developed as to why.
I guess this should be obvious to anyone, and I have had this thought before, but driving around with my mom this trip it really struck me: Richardson is about as neutral and plain as a town can possibly be. There is next to nothing unique or definable about it, as far as I can tell. I mean, for a while in the 90s it had a tech boom, but then much of the U.S. did.
I'm not complaining that it's boring or mind-crushing or anything like that. I think there's something good about it. Growing up in Richardson will teach you the basics of the way the world operates, without shaping you in any obvious way. You learn the basic elements of life, without being branded by any kind of culture.
You'll learn that there is a such thing as ground, sky, trees, night, day, rain, snow, sleet, sun, creeks, hills, houses, baseball parks, sports, businesses, cars, TV, computers, jobs, churches, schools, chores, games, drunk driving accidents, clothes, friends, enemies, bullies, alleys, restaurants, streets, open spaces, men, women, and children (and perhaps a few other basic elements of life that I'm forgetting). And everything else, you find out when you leave. It's almost like growing up in a white room with a benevolent teacher. There's not too much there to influence you, which can make for a very adaptable person. If... you don't go crazy first. Ha!
The Richardson accent is a good illustration of this. Few people who grew up in Richardson seem to have Texas accents, or identifiable accents of any kind, unless they just moved from anywhere else. Nobody will meet someone from Richardson and know that person is from Texas. Unless, of course, it's a topless Jensen Ackles in a cowboy hat. But I know he couldn't have done that photo shoot of his own free will. We're not cowboys here. He was compelled.
I used to be jealous of people who grew up somewhere cool. It makes people instantly intrigued. "Oooh, Salt Lake City. I didn't know you were Mormon! Or are you? That must have been a weird childhood." "You grew up in Seattle? This rain must be nothing for you! Isn't it really pretty there? Gotta love Starbucks!" "You grew up in Chicago? Hey, are those cement shoes behind your back? I am not going near any bottomless lakes late at night with you!" "My God, you're from The Bronx, and you're still alive?" "Australia? Isn't that where Vegemite comes from?" "Jerusalem? Man, that must have been crazy! Weren't you scared to ride the busses there?" "Whoa, you grew up in a small town in Alabama? So is there still racism there?"
And instantly people have some kind of information about you, and something to talk about. If you tell someone you're from Richardson, the rest of the conversation will be this: "Isn't that in Virginia?" "No, that's Richmond." "Oh."
My teachers in middle school and high school were always casting curses and hexes on us, and the one they used the most was, "May you be cursed to grow up in an interesting place." Obviously they were trying to get us to leave, but this trip made me realize that there is a little more to the curse than that.
Perhaps growing up in a cool place is worse than it looks. For one thing, it takes some of the pressure off. In one small way - a way you born into and have nothing to do with - you don't have to prove yourself. You're able to take partial credit for the city you were born in, whether or not you've actually helped shape the city to be what it is.
"You grew up in Geneva? Rock on, dude!" Just from that, you might be able to wow people enough so that you won't feel as bad for not being an actor on Supernatural, or the producer/editor of Napoleon Dynamite. If you grew up in Richardson, on the other hand, all you've got is your looks, your personality, and your accomplishments.
Ultimately, you don't need to prove yourself to anyone. I mean, this whole website is a testament to just doing what you want to do no matter how other people see you, without stopping to worry about what other people are accomplishing.
So maybe an even better advantage to growing up in Richardson is the freedom to not be shaped much by any sort of specialized culture. By growing up healthily with the minimal amount of stimulus required (without it being minimal to the point of fostering a small town personality), Richardson creates people who understand what the world is and how it works, but don't have much of a regional identity, and fewer cultural assumptions than normal, and thus could conceivably adapt to live a wider variety of lifestyles than people more influenced by their upbringing.
Essentially, it puts a checkmark in the "nature" side of the un-ending war between nature and nuture, making Richardsonites more likely to become whom they were genetically pre-destined to be. Just like the hero's brother in Gattaca.
So would I grow up in Richardson again if I had the choice?
Hell no! I'd grow up anywhere but here!