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Hook, Line and Sinker

By Tony Hooker
We all thought we’d change the world
With our great works and deeds
Or maybe we just thought the world
Would change to fit our needs-–Statler Brothers, ‘Class of 57’

Four decades. 480 months. 14,600 days. 350,400 hours. It’s still hard for me to fathom because deep down inside, I’m still the same 14-year-old knucklehead who’s misbehaving in Mrs. Meller and Mrs. Krejci’s study hall, but the VGHS class of 1982 has been unleashed on the world for that long. We recently gathered for our reunion, and I was struck by so many memories, both good and bad, that I thought I would share a few.

40 years ago, my mom and stepdad were separated, and rather than celebrate my mama, the Reebster, for being the amazing, bad-a$$ warrior princess that she was, raising three kids on a $5 an hour job, I resented the fact that I couldn’t have all the pretty things. This resentment led to feelings of self-doubt and of maybe not quite being as good as the rest of my class. With the passage of time, I realize that I brought that same misguided sense of being an outsider to the first 5 reunions our class had. Looking back, this sense of not fitting in, especially after the class of 81, whom I was especially close to, had graduated, probably gave me many of the character traits, the good, the bad, and the ugly, that I possess today. I had/have an almost pathological need for people to like me. I tend to overindulge in everything! Food, drink, music, fun. You name it, and I’ve always wanted all of it. At a recent leadership conference I attended, we participated in the CliftonStrengths insight test, and to the surprise of none, the personality trait I scored highest in was called “Woo,” as in trying to win people over. Trust me when I say that I fit the definition of a “Woo” to a T. 

The crazy thing is, I think that I was and still am, my biggest critic, as about 99 percent of the citizens of the world are. It seems strange to me that it took to this point in my life to realize that my classmates weren’t judging me. I was judging myself. So, here’s to you, class of 82. I’ll see you next time.

My class, like all the classes before and after it, has had our share of wild successes and horrible tragedies, but it was fun to talk about where we thought we would be when we were 18, versus where we are as we approach 60. Kenny was going to be a cop until he discovered another route and became a highly successful school superintendent, shepherding three different districts through the dangerous, ever changing regulatory and fiscal waters. Paul was going to be, and became, an engineer, making his mark on the world through alternative energy sources. Kirk was going to be a cop, probably from birth, and retired from the Illinois State Police Dept a few years ago. I’m not sure what Kris’s plan was when we graduated, but he too took the Law Enforcement route and has recently retired from a highly successful career with the County Sheriff’s Office. Denise told me she always thought she would be a secretary or a flight attendant, and she ended up doing both. She’s no longer part of the friendly skies, but she lived that dream. As for me. I truly had no clue. Just a vague notion of wanting to write. Or something. And for the past 7 years, I’ve been able to indulge myself in a tiny bit of word therapy every week. And for that I’m grateful.

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