One of the individuals in this picture is the mayor of my town. Identify him or her in comments:
This will magically turn into a real post with more words (and the answer) later today. I’ll even put a page break here so you can choose your answer without seeing it. Click on the “more” button to see the rest of the post, including the startling answer!
That’s him in the middle, as one of my two guessers so far have guessed– the guy in the suit with the polka-dot tie. Mayor Pete (that’s what he wants people to call him) is 32; five years younger than me, and was not yet thirty years old when he was elected Mayor. To my eyes, he looks younger than at least half of the people in that picture. He’s with his Youth Task Force; I’m not sure what exactly that is other than a resume-padder for ambitious teens, but everyone else in the picture is a high school student.
I like Mayor Pete, for the most part; I voted for him in the Democratic primary, which was the election that counted (the Republican party– and this is not partisanship, exaggeration, or a joke, this is the precise and literal truth– ran a mostly-toothless fat man who interrupted his multiple lawsuits against the city to attempt to run it and an actual hobo— and no, I am not kidding, he listed his address as a transients’ hotel– for the office*) and I haven’t had reason to regret it. I’ll admit that I voted for him mostly out of default; I wasn’t enormously happy with electing someone his age but he was the only candidate who didn’t actively piss me off for something or another during the campaign, and I actually emailed one of them to point out the exact moment he lost my vote. He’s done a good enough job so far by my standards; my standards are “I should never notice city government for any reason except competence.” There was a minor scandal involving firing the police chief that I honestly didn’t pay much attention to; that was it.
He makes me feel old, Mayor Pete does, and in an interesting way. I could easily have been Mayor Pete in an alternate universe. He grew up here; my wife, who is a couple of years younger than me, vaguely remembers him from academic competitions in high school. He went to Harvard; I did not, but I have an acceptance letter rusting away in a file folder somewhere. He was Phi Beta Kappa and a Rhodes Scholar; again, I was not, but I’ll point at that acceptance letter again to point out that, had my priorities been different, I probably could have been both of those things as well. I would likely have turned down PBK membership had it been offered to me; I declined several similar societies in college because I didn’t see the point. Hell, I got made a junior Rotarian in high school and went to one meeting and fled because being surrounded by dozens of influential business people in suits made me the angry kind of suicidal. I’m willing to bet most of the kids in that photo would climb over you to get into a Rotary Club meeting if they’re not already there.
I’ll admit that I don’t see a world in which I ended up as a politician. I lack, and I have never had, a number of personality traits that are rather essential for success in that field, and a number of my actual personality traits (if you’ve been reading a while, you can probably name a few) would make it highly unlikely that I could ever garner enough votes to be elected to anything.
(As an aside: I remember the first time I felt like this– I was eight or nine, Thriller had just come out, and I had discovered that Michael Jackson had been famous since he was my age, which gave me a distinct feeling that I was behind. Needless to say, I appear to have never caught up.)
Anyway, every time I look at the dude I feel weird. It’s interesting, looking at someone who has achieved something you haven’t, and knowing that your choices made you the way you are and their choices made them the way they are.(**) I coulda been a doctor or a lawyer, y’know? There wasn’t anything stopping me except that I chose not to go into the sciences or law school. I was perfectly capable. And here I am, a rapidly-approaching-middle-age-if-I’m-not-there-already middle school math teacher, which is hardly the highest prestige job available. And even if I were to achieve massive success with my writing, which is certainly among my current goals, that’s a peculiar sort of fame, where there may be lots of people who know your name but have no idea what you look like, and even the people who know what you look like are unlikely to, say, run into you at Applebee’s and demand an autograph.
I might sound a bit depressed; I’m not. I like my life. But I’m on the cusp right now of some things that may seriously alter that life– hopefully for the better– and it’s making me contemplative. Mayor Pete’s mostly an excuse to riff on where my head is right now.
(*) He received 73% of the vote, meaning that the Republican candidate received 27%, which will cause those of you who have a political bent to smile.
(**) For me, at least, this is true. I’ve led a privileged enough life that I feel comfortable saying there was nothing holding me back from being more traditionally successful than I am. I had no lack of opportunity. Unfortunately, that’s not true for everyone.