Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 15, 2007

When I received a mailing from the 30-year reunion committee of my high school class, I perused the letter, surprised they had found me. I have moved a lot and haven’t kept in touch with anyone from high school.
I also felt mildly annoyed at being old enough to have a 30-year reunion. I set the envelope aside, planning to examine its contents more closely when I had time.
It wasn’t long before it got buried under other documents I had deferred for later study. Weeks later, all the papers were swept off the table into a box before a dinner party.
Months passed. When I eventually managed to excavate the letter, I discovered the deadline for returning the reservation and information form had passed a month earlier.
I had been voted the girl “Most Likely to Succeed” in my senior class, but ironically, I couldn’t even succeed in returning my form on time. I decided to fill it out and mail it back anyway. The booklets about everyone’s lives and activities might already have been printed, but perhaps I could be an addendum.
I answered the questions about myself, grimacing when I came to the one asking for names of my grandchildren. It’s interesting that some of my classmates are grandparents, since I haven’t aged at all.
I also paused where the form said “retirement plans.” I just recently embarked on a newspaper career.
At the end of the form, I wrote “I’m still working on that ‘most likely to succeed’ thing.” I included my e-mail address so they would be able to contact me and say, “Don’t worry about the deadline. Just come on anyway. We can’t have a reunion without you.” (Actually, I skipped the 10th and 20th reunions, so they do go on without me.)
I didn’t hear back. But I didn’t want to drive up to Virginia anyway, what with the cost of gas and all.
The day I was awarded “Most Likely to Succeed,” my high school band director said it was like a curse, and I would probably end up in the gutter. I don’t believe in curses, but I do think labels can be detrimental. Success is hard to define, and sometimes difficult to recognize.
Usually “success” depends upon someone else’s failure, as in the case of awards or job promotions. So does being most likely to succeed mean most likely to defeat others? The older I get, the less competitive I’ve become.
My youngest daughter just graduated from high school. During her band awards banquet, I reminisced about winning my high school’s Arion award, given to “most outstanding” music student.
I was determined to win that award.
I played French horn for wind ensemble, piano for jazz band and musicals, was president of the music club, and even composed and conducted works for the band. I got the Arion award, a nice medal.
I was also on the forensic team, a columnist for the school newspaper, member of the athletic association, honor society, various clubs.
My high school yearbook listed seniors’ activities and awards under their pictures. My entry is 11 lines long, the longest one in the book. I know, because I counted them.
I was tired a lot of the time during my teens. I was never satisfied. I cried a lot. I was prescribed antidepressants.
My peers, regarding manic ambition as a good thing, bestowed the aforementioned “most likely” honor on me. But these days, my friends tell me I try to do too much, and I need to learn to say “no.”
After high school, I became a perpetual college student, for 23 years. From 1977-2000, there was not a year in which I was not enrolled either full- or part-time in a college program of some sort. I earned three degrees in music and teaching licensure, and started and dropped out of various other degrees and programs.
At the same time, I had a long string of part-time and full-time jobs: library work, motel maid, symphony manager, health food store clerk, college professor, music store clerk, elementary school music teacher, orchestra education director, middle school teacher. I had also managed to get married and have three children.
I was a year and a half into a Ph.D., sitting in a statistics class, when I suddenly decided I was tired and had been in school long enough. I stopped taking notes, and I didn’t return the next day.
When I had gone to my Ph.D. advisor the previous year, he had asked “Why are you doing this? Do you know how old you you are going to be when you finish?”
And he added, “Don’t tell me it’s for personal fulfillment. That’s not a good reason.”
I didn’t really have a good, economically-sound reason to earn a doctorate degree. I think I was still trying to “succeed.”
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
While you’re waiting for that big success to come along, you can fail to recognize all the little daily successes that make life worthwhile.
Once when I was whining to a friend about how I had never had a career, she told me that all of my experiences had made me the person I was, and she liked that person. That made me feel warm and fuzzy for a few minutes, but it was still years before I accepted that I would finally be successful the moment I liked the person I was.
I have a lot in common with my Salisbury Post cubicle neighbor, Katie Scarvey, LifeStyle editor. We are both from Virginia, both have daughters, and she was also voted “Most Likely to Succeed” of her high school class. That means two out three LifeStyle employees at the Salisbury Post achieved that honor. (Susan Shinn was voted “Preppiest” by her high school class.)
So statistically, given this high percentage, there seems to be a definite correlation between being voted “Most Likely to Succeed” and working for the Salisbury Post LifeStyle department.
Yes! I made it!
Contact Sarah Hall at 704-797-4271 or