God give me strength...

My best friend from high school--Mike--is packing his things right now, waiting to go to the airport for a six pm flight to Heathrow, London. He's going to spend a year at Sussex University, getting his MA in literature. I'm gonna go out of my head over this.

Mike and I grew up in a small area of Pennsylvania, east of Reading and Lancaster, but far enough from Philadelphia that everything seemed rural. Most of our friends from high school have never really left the area; some never went to college, others went for a year or two and dropped out, still others went their four years--yet all are working in the same jobs as their parents, it seems: farmers, construction, garden shop, landscaper, mechanic. Don't misunderstand me--there's honor in those things. It isn't the jobs that I find depressing. It's their provencialism, I suppose.

Mike was over his friend Ritchie's house on Saturday. Ritchie never went to college and now runs his father's garden shop. Mike sat, listening to Ritchie's mother talk about another friend's mother, and about the 1973 Boyertown homecoming game, as if it were yesterday. Their lives revolve not around the whole world, but around their town. There is no outside world; there is no exploration of your talents--just go work in the quarry like your father.

Maybe that was fine in the 19th century, but this is the 21st century, and America is not an island, as we've seen. I guess everything is made more poignant for us because of September 11, but it's true nonetheless. Mike is getting out--he's working eventually towards a PhD. So am I. There's only one other person from our class who's moveing on, a girl named Christine, who is studying dramaturgy at Columbia. I'm not from Boyertown, I'm originally from Philadelphia, and come from a relatively nomadic family. Christine is originally from Lansing, Michigan. Mike's father has taken him outside the country any number of times on business trips--Mexaco, Spain, San Francisco. With Mike, it's a privilege of money; with us, it's a sense of being an outsider.

I'm usually proud of being an outsider, of being a nomad. I still am. As Mike said, "They {the kids we grew up with} may not know the world now, but they will; I'm lucky--I'm going to England. They're probably going to end up in Afganistan."