When I look back on my high school experience, I think to myself, “I have no idea how I made it out alive.” I say this mostly because I was a misfit, not unpopular exactly, but certainly nowhere close to the popular crowd. I spent my time just try
ing to stay underneath the radar. I hated school, I hate the majority of the people around me and I had no desire to conform to fit in. After reading “Ten Years Gone: Pomp and Circumstance” by Brandon Melendez, I see that I’m not the only one who felt like this.
It’s an odd moment when you realize you have an eerie amount of similarities with your boss. It makes the man seen normal, almost human even (just kidding, Brandon). In what is described as a “it-sort-of-happened-like-that memoir,” Melendez tells an entertaining, but honest and true story about his youth.
For me, and I’m sure for anyone else who was growing up in the late 90s to early 2000s, this story was a fun, nostalgic trip down memory lane (anyone else remember AIM, KaZaa and Saved by the Bell? Man, those were the days). It was also a reminder of the struggles of that time. I remember, much like Brandon did, agonizing over my poor Regents scores in Math and wondering if I was going to graduate on time because I just couldn’t get a grasp on a concept I was NEVER going to use again. I also remember summer school and failing the exam for a second time. Don’t worry we both ended up fine. TAKE THAT, NEW YORK STATE REGENTS EXAM!
What didn’t really surprise me about the story was the humor in it, and not just from Melendez, but also from his mother! During the story’s original run, his mother left some funny comments. At least we know where Brandon gets his humor. Another great part that sticks out in my mind would be his extensive, but hilarious, description of the sun. I don’t want to give it all away, but let’s just say he had a pretty rude awakening that day.
While the story never loses its humor, it still manages to keep its humanity. Melendez describes pretty perfectly, I must say, the awkwardness, the excitement and the anxiety that everyone feels their first time. I must give kudos to him; I don’t think I’d have the courage to share something as (potentially) embarrassing and personal as that. The entry about 9/11 was all illustrations (done by Benjamin Silberstein) and beautifully depicted all the different emotions of that day. In my opinion, those pictures said more than any words ever could.
And what would a high school experience be without your first love? Rachel, Brandon’s girlfriend, is a pistol and holds her own in this story, but I must admit, her gross interpretation of Alanis Morrisette’s hit “You Oughta Know” hit pretty close to home. She’s not the only one who thought the lyric was “crossed-eyed bear.”
“Ten Years Gone: Pomp and Circumstance” allowed me to relive my high school years without having to actually go back to that god-awful place. It also gave me a little perspective on the whole thing, and finally got to laugh at all the stupid things I used to dwell on. And just so we’re clear, I did not give this a glowing review just to get on the boss’ good side (but it never hurts, right?).