Just Like Everybody Else
By Andre Cormier
Back in a time when screensavers were more functional than decorative, I enjoyed getting into the control panel of our family computer and entering text that I thought was interesting to have scroll across the screen in the orange-light-idle-time of ‘stand by’ mode. And then for extra fun, I would set the font to wingdings so that it was more of a coded inside joke.
I remember my favorite quote for the screensaver was, “You’re unique, just like everybody else.” At the time, what I loved about it was the word play, the oxy-moronic and paradox quality. Like most quotes, I would later find that it was misattributed. But the author didn’t matter to me in this case. The power of this quote was a slow burn of sentiment that stayed with me and became a way to codify and explain duality.
How to maintain the comfort of seeing how we have a serious amount of similarity, while also feeling that we are defined individuals with experiences unduplicated? The quote pushed me to accept that I have something to share that no one else can, while reminding me that my unique position and perspective should do less to separate me and more to bond me to the collective whole of human experience. Along with my wife and best friends, it helped me decide to attend my 20th high school class reunion.
Growing up in a small town in Maine, I felt bonded to my community. The last thing I wanted to be labeled in public/external life was ‘different.’ But internally, I wanted to feel as if I was unusual. I wanted to be unique and accepted as much as I feared being considered insignificant because I was just like everybody else. I hoped to find a space of shared consciousness and wisdom to which I could bring my own voice. But more often than not, I found myself trying to fit into a culture that warned me the nail that sticks up is the one that gets hammered.
This was on my mind as I was one of the first to arrive at the reunion. The Elk’s Lodge, from the road, looked like a mansion on a hill filled with a unique space. Upon entering the ballroom of generic floor tile and drop ceiling, I found a white space of fluorescent overhead lighting and no evidence of secret lodge ceremonies. Then, the color of the room began to arrive as people I hadn’t seen in person in two decades began making their way through the door.
Granted, with a lot of the people in attendance, I had made many a memory with after High School graduation and into college and beyond. But even though those memories seemed recent, a distance of a decade had been more consumed by the building of new families and out-of-state adventures. Social media had given a glimpse into what was happening in people’s lives. It was not the same as satisfaction that came with catching up through face-to-face conversation.
As the dance floor started to gain momentum, I stood by with old friends and acquaintances and shared how our lives had unfolded and were still unfolding. With a few of the guys I grew up with, there were moments reminisced that had a new meaning for me. There was a true kindness that was less about being proud and more about being thankful.
But the focus wasn’t as much about how it used to be, when we were young and still so tightly packed in the infinite density of our shared genesis that small town life seemed dangerously simplistic and entrapping. The focus was the journey to now.
Twenty years of universal expansion gone by and the uniqueness of our lives is so much more evident, saturated with so much more experiential complexity, and yet still so undeniably marked by the same signature of the shared star dust in our DNA. With so many stories from a shared past and mostly disparate paths back to a shared moment in a rented out room of an Elk’s Lodge, it was clear that so much had changed. And so much had stayed the same. Each of us in attendance, an individual. And each of us woven into a collective known as the Class of ’99. All with unique lives. Just like everyone else.