Most Likely

You should probably know that for whatever reason (possibly peer pressure and/or lack of any other logical choice for the title), my high school graduating class voted me “Most Likely to Be Famous.” When you open my senior yearbook, you’ll see a photo of my fellow title-holder/BFF Taylor and me posing as though we were signing autographs for our “adoring fans.” It’s a silly photo, but I remember feeling important having some tiny bit of recognition from my classmates. Which is also silly. Fact: high school, overall, is silly. Anyway, the point is that enough people knew about my dreams of chasing an acting career to give me an extra yearbook photo and a Senior “Most” Award, which as you know, is basically a precursor to winning a People’s Choice Award.

Duckie Dale: gay icon and hipster sartorial inspiration

Duckie Dale: gay icon and hipster sartorial inspiration

Back then, I thought I had gotten one of the best senior awards, and not just because it was the only one I got. Even now, I still think that. I mean, “Best Dressed” is already dated. I was never going to win “Cutest Couple” because the only guy I really dated in high school went to a different school and turned out to be gay, which I should have realized when he was too complimentary of my outfits and then started dressing like Duckie Dale from Pretty in Pink with bolo ties (Love you, Matt. Seriously.). “Most Likely to Never Leave” is beyond sad. Looking at my frizzy, wild hair post-early morning marching band practice, no one would have voted me “Best Hair,” and I wouldn’t have wanted it anyway as I’m pretty sure that means you have to compete against Friends-era Jennifer Aniston and Nashville’s Connie Britton in some elitist hair pageant or something.

Getting my hair to look like this is akin to finding a unicorn.

This is just UNFAIR, ladies.

I suppose “Most Likely to Be President” would have been fine, except I was never in student council and had no political ambitions and would never have been as smooth as Bill Clinton at getting out of awkward situations.

So of all the choices, I got “Most Likely to Be Famous,” and along with it, a burden.

Why, you ask, is getting a silly senior class award a burden? Because you don’t actually realize it’s now the weird future point of judgment for everything you do after high school. My award is actually more like a goal, career results-based. Sure, you can win “Best Hair” in high school and still be trying to live up to it each year, but “Most Likely to Be Famous” carries with it this whole host of issues.

Now, don’t get me wrong: fame is fleeting and not the most fulfilling of life plans. Some people spend their whole lives chasing fame; the whole reality TV scene is based upon this principle. And if I wanted to try to get famous quickly, I’d submit my name for the Real World or Big Brother or something else involving too much making out in a probably highly unsanitary hot tub. If you pander to the cameras and play up your personality, you might just be America’s topic of conversation for a hot second or a few clever internet memes.

But the kind of notoriety I would want is the kind built around career achievements; my acting work and the roles I’ve played. This takes patience and hard work and with it the risk that I may never achieve Meryl Streep-esque notoriety. This kind of fame is the one I would prefer and the one I’d want to seek out. The kind where nobody is reading a blurb about you in Us Weekly wondering if you’re dating John Mayer. The kind where everyone is instead only reading about what new film or play you’re working on or just finished. When I received that “Most Likely To Be Famous” title, THIS is the kind of fame I’d pictured and knew would be a long road to REALLY earning the title I’d been bequeathed by my classmates.

Practically perfect in every way

Practically perfect in every way

Of course, does anyone take these senior awards seriously anyway once you’re out of high school? No. But looking back on that time in my life through the pages of that yearbook reminded me that once we all DID take it a little seriously. We measured our popularity, achievements, and visibility by the amount of page numbers listed by our names in the yearbook index: the more you had, the more remembered you’d be. We all wanted so desperately to be remembered a certain way: cool, involved, outstanding even. Our senior awards were the last crowning achievements we’d get before we became lowly freshman once again in college. To be a “Most Likely” was to be a star; the high school equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Every time anyone opens up that particular yearbook from 2007, they will see my toothy visage and name underneath my “Most Likely” award. I have been immortalized as someone who was known for something in high school.

The winners of Most Likely to Be Famous at high school graduation aka the day humidity frizzed out my hair...as USUAL

The winners of “Most Likely to Be Famous” at high school graduation aka the day humidity frizzed out my hair…as USUAL  NOT Connie Britton/Jennifer Aniston-worthy.

But what if I don’t live up to my Senior Most? What if I never achieve the fame for which I was supposedly destined, according to the Fulton High School Class of 2007? Why do I even care? I suppose that we all, in some ways, worry about our other people’s perceptions of us, and high school has always been a breeding ground for insecurities that can last well into adulthood. I myself was always an A-student, so to get anything less, to not be constantly the best has always been a personal battle; learning to let go of that perfectionism is something I work on every day. Would people think less of me if I didn’t achieve all the time (and specifically achieve this particular thing)? Honestly, no. And it’s hard for me to admit that, because I’m too wrapped up in my own neuroses, but it’s true. The minute you start letting your life be defined by what other people think of you is the minute it ceases being YOUR life.

AND no matter what group you belonged to in high school, I know now it was a weird time for everyone. Nobody actually feels cool in high school. It’s this secret no one tells you until you graduate and start getting older and forgetting about the bullshit of it all and really talking to one another. We make so many assumptions in high school about other people. It still cracks me up that some of my high school classmates get surprised when I tell them about some of my wilder nights in college and here in the City. “You drink?” they ask me astonished. Uh, yeah. I’m a normal twenty-five year old woman. Surprise! Tequila does just as much damage to my liver and memories and judgment as you.

We’re all seeking to be a “most” in something in our life, whether that be in our career or relationships or families. We want people to remember us for something unique to us, something that gave our lives some semblance of meaning. Life isn’t measured by yearbook mentions, it’s about what we do and who we are, the people whose lives we touch. You can’t measure those things or turn them into some “most” award, truthfully. Success is a personal thing, its definition changing person-to-person, life-to-life. What I want for MY life, what makes me a success, is no one else’s business but mine.

According to the lens flare on this photo, J.J. Abrams took it. (just kidding)

According to the lens flare on this photo, J.J. Abrams took it. (just kidding)

I may never become famous the way my high school yearbook predicted, and I’m okay with that. Seriously. My senior “most” award, like many of my (questionable) outfits from that part of my life, is just a relic of an era-gone-by. It belongs to a person I barely recognize anymore, a person who has grown so far beyond the one in that photo. It’s almost shocking to look at her and realize that was me a little less than a decade ago, that I was so thrilled about something so trivial. It’s then that I realize just how much I have changed, how much life I have lived since then for better or worse.

And to be honest, if I could give myself any award these days, it would be “Most Improved.”

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Diary of a Mad, White Teenager aka My Xanga Years

If you really want to have a cringe-worthy and altogether mortifying experience, then look no further than your own old Xanga blog. It is an embarrassment of riches…emphasis on embarrassment.

Well, at least mine is.

If you were anything like me in high school, you probably had MSN Messenger, an affinity for the movie Mean Girls, and a Xanga or MySpace page on which you posted all your tortured teen thoughts like you were Winona Ryder in basically every movie Winona Ryder has been in (minus maybe Edward Scissorhandssince she was more “girl next door” and less witty, self-deprecating teen diary-writer a la Heathers).

When ISN’T Winona manically scribbling in some diary in a movie?

Also, if you were like me, then you probably thought you were above silly high school drama, but upon re-reading your old Xanga entries, you discovered you were just as dramatic as every other high school girl ever to exist on the planet in the history of time.

I started my Xanga back in the olden times aka 2005.  Facebook was only about a year old and still exclusive to college students and a few lucky invited high schoolers (myself being one of them!).  Myspace was the leading website for social media.  Here in 2012, this whole scenario is just laughable as Facebook essentially put Myspace out of business in the last seven years, and most of us who had Xangas have moved on to better blogging websites like this one (or become Scientologists as Xanga sounds suspiciously like Xenu, their principal alien deity; the fact I know this information leads me to believe I spend entirely too much time on the internet).

SIDE NOTE: Justin Timberlake is the new face of Myspace and is trying to help the company re-vamp and bring itself back from the internet graveyard.  Justin didbring sexy back, so I will be interested to see if he can make Myspace happen (again) in a world where “fetch” wouldn’t (Sorry, Gretchen Weiners).

“…and none for Gretchen Weiners. BYE.”

ANYWAY. The office where I’m working this week is a quiet, cubicle’d land where the reception phone hardly ever rings, so I just sit on Pinterest all day and email with my mother (Oh god I sound like I’m about 100 years old so I probably shouldn’t mention I spent an hour the other night watching Bea Arthur in Maude episodes online).

Today, however, I decided to take a trip down memory lane, so I headed over to Xanga, input my username and password, and let the hilarity/mortification/shame begin!  I decided to start with entries dated for today, October 2nd.  That was a good way to dive into the cesspool of drama, emo song lyrics, and sometimes extremely witty dialogue I wrote between 2005 and 2010 (when I stopped writing regular entries there).  I ultimately decided to spare myself some humiliation and not re-read every single entry as it would be too much horror to bear for one day.  So what did I write about?  Like any respectable, normal teenage girl, I wrote about boys.  And school.  Did I mention boys?  But in reading it and knowing how so much of my life has turned out since then, I see how truly clueless (paging Alicia Silverstone!) I was on so many levels about so many different things.  I was interested in all the wrong boys (I still might be; that remains to be seen) who weren’t interested in me.  I took a lot of things way, WAY too personally.  But isn’t that what being a teenager is all about: making mistakes, feeling like the universe has it against you, and crushing on unavailable guys?

“Searching for a boy in high school is like searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie” Couldn’t agree more, Cher.

Not to mention being a bit narcissistic and a bit of a know-it-all.  Oh and on Xanga, there was this totally rad feature where you could put what you were currently listening to or watching for maximum blog emo-ness (lots of Coldplay lyrics, kids, something for which I do not apologize as they are still my favorite band).

I’ve never deleted my Xanga account even though all of the other people I know who used it have long deserted theirs; their introspective adolescent memoirs collectively buried six feet under in some internet cemetery where bad blogs and once-funny YouTube videos go to die.  Some of those people have asked me why I haven’t deleted mine, and I always sort of shrugged and said, “it’s not like I use it anymore; I just haven’t.”  The truth is that deleting it would feel like throwing away the Lisa Frank dolphin diary I wrote in during fourth grade when I was very in-fourth-grade-like with Paul Matthews who was very in-fourth-grade-like with me (The 1990s were SO wondrous weren’t they?  It was the only decade when environmentalism met rainbow-colored, psychedelic school supplies art!).

Lisa Frank: purveyor of rainbows, unicorns, endangered species, and rapping bears aka my first brush with things my gay friends love

It would feel like throwing away a part of me and pretending like it never existed.  I did all those things, I said all those things, and no matter what I do, I can’t change them, so I just have to embrace that girl even though she embarrasses me now albeit in a sort of endearing way.  There, I said it.  I find that clueless yet witty former self endearing because I know that despite all her complaining and yearning and facepalm moments, she turns out okay.

And I know when I look back and read this a few years from now, I’ll be okay then too.

So to close, I’m sharing an excerpt from one of those silly surveys everyone used to fill out in the 2000s and including my answers to those same questions today.

My answers from JANUARY 12, 2007 ABOUT YOU
1. What do you wish you had been named?  I am one of the few people who actually LIKES their name as is
2. What is the nickname most people call you? EPo
3. Do you plan to change your name when you’re 18? If so, to what?  Um, I AM 18, and no. Although, Ponchitta would be a funny name.
4. If you could become any age you wanted, right now, what age would it be and why?  25. It just sounds like a good age to be.
5. Why is (insert your favorite color here) your favorite color?  Because I got smart and figured out that BLUE is five bajillion times better than pink…and I look pretty damn hot in blue.
6. If your first choice of careers doesn’t work out, what would you choose as a “backup?”  Eh. I’ve always wanted to be a figure skater in another life, but that won’t work out either. I suppose I’d go into music or become a writer for a magazine.
7. What holiday could you easily do without?  Hanukkah, but only because I’m not Jewish. haha.
8. Assuming you have a crush on somebody, what is it exactly that you like about him/her? If you don’t have a crush, what is the one quality that the person absolutely has to have?  I have a boyfriend, but I like him because he’s funny and sweet.
9. What singer or band can you imitate the best?  Cher
10. If your life were a book, what genre would it be?  Jane Austen…because it would be so terribly romantic.
11. Do you worry about finding your soul mate and getting married?  Not really.

PRESENT DAY…

My answers from OCTOBER 2, 2012  ABOUT YOU
1. What do you wish you had been named?  Emmy Lane Potter
2. What is the nickname most people call you?  EmPotts, EmPo, Em
3. Do you plan to change your name when you’re 18? If so, to what?  Ooh honey, eighteen came and went almost six years ago, and my legal name is still very much the same.
4. If you could become any age you wanted, right now, what age would it be and why?  The age I am now, because there is no time like the present.  Although I wouldn’t mind being in third grade for a day so I could go to a Scholastic Book Fair and buy a bunch of Baby-Sitters Club Books without shame.
5. Why is (insert your favorite color here) your favorite color?  Blue is a calming color, and as someone who falls to the perils of stress quite frequently, I need something calming.  And I just like it?
6. If your first choice of careers doesn’t work out, what would you choose as a “backup?”  Call me if my first choice of careers doesn’t work out, and I’ll let you know what I’m doing.  I’m still trying to make my first choice happen right now.
7. What holiday could you easily do without?  International Fanny Pack Day (it’s a real thing; Google it) because the last thing we need to have 80s/90s nostalgia over is an unattractive Velcro purse we strap around our waists.  Like mullets and rat-tails, it was a bad idea from the get-go.
8. Assuming you have a crush on somebody, what is it exactly that you like about him/her? If you don’t have a crush, what is the one quality that the person absolutely has to have?  I like that Michael Fassbender is so…well, Michael Fassbender.  He’s his own category.  Oh…you mean non-celebs?  Okay, then I like that he’s smart, quick-witted, and sometimes challenging to me.
9. What singer or band can you imitate the best?  The last time I did this I said Cher.  That probably remains unchanged.
10. If your life were a book, what genre would it be?  Something in the vein of Capote and Salinger with some Louisa May Alcott thrown in for its girl-power tendencies.
11. Do you worry about finding your soul mate and getting married?  When I’m in my thirties and potentially still unmarried, then my answer may be different.  For now, at almost age 24, this is still a no.