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Can You Believe It’s Been 10 Years Already?

The brains, athletes, basket cases, princesses and criminals of the Class of 2000 celebrated their 10-year reunion late last year.

“Reunion-iting” inevitably stirs up memories and emotions — some charitably fuzzy,others painfully sharp — but some things stand out among the “Remember when’s?” …“She did what’s?” … and “Ben who?” This was an unusually unusual decade to come of age. The Class of 2000 graduated from high school at a moment of “irrational exuberance.” People were buying very big cars and filling them with very cheap gas while happily paying by the minute to use America Online. Just being the millennial-marking “Class of 2000” seemed to vest us with a mandate to take over the world.

During freshman year of college, we voted in our first presidential election and then gathered around small dorm-room TVs waiting for results, which would not come for weeks. We had just returned to our campuses for sophomore year — feeling older, wiser and preparing to declare our majors — when the World Trade Center was struck and then struck again. We watched smoke billow from lower Manhattan on marginally bigger TVs.

During spring break of our junior year, we were treated to live broadcasts of “Shock and Awe,” followed by a hasty declaration of “Mission Accomplished” by final exams. As four years of college culminated, we commenced with the rest of our lives amid Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Enron-executive indictments and Abu Ghraib photos.

Fast-forward through our first “grown-up jobs” and advanced degrees — and you’ll end up headlong into the near-collapse of Western-style capitalism, a historic presidential election and the birth of the Tea Party movement.

Of course, the Class of 2000 shared these experiences with everyone. But there was something especially formative about developing a worldview in a world that changed at an ever-increasing rate. The Class of 2000 has already begun to realize its potential through professional, creative and civic accomplishments, but the forecast is foggy after taking the world by storm during such a stormy decade.

Then again, you never really graduate from high school. You could argue that technology has made reunions obsolete or rebut that online communication has heightened the importance of physical human gathering. Instead, I think of modern day reunions as a mere change of scenery inan ongoing, online experiment: What if high school continued indefinitely?

Pop culture promises that, after highs chool, marginal kids go on to lives of intrigue while popular kids work at car washes: The geeks shall inherit the earth.There does appear to be a collapsing of high school hierarchy — both caused and evidenced by Facebook — with mostly positive results.

After all, high school’s typical social structure derives primarily from the ability to exclude people and withhold information. The online world is, for better or for worse, an experiment in inclusiveness and transparency: Those who seek “exclusivity” risk being excluded themselves and back stabbing invites boomeranging.

So, what distinguishes the Class of 2000’s 10-year retrospective from those classes preceding us? While a few made it off the grid, we generally knew who was gay, married,divorced, bald — or gay-married to a divorced bald guy — well in advance of our vaunted reunion.

And this accessibility has cultivated a sense of humanity, if not solidarity, among the Sportos, the Motorheads, Geeks, Sluts, Bloods, Wastoids, Dweebies, and Dickheads of today. In other words, Mr. Rooney: The kids are all right.



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