On reflection, the thing that most blows me away about finding out where my old classmate ended up is that someone my age, who started out (except for the billion dollar inheritance of course) in the same place as me, could possibly be a player on the global military and political stage. This is aging. First you start to notice that, say, a few pop stars are your age instead of older than you. Then they’re younger. Then most pop stars are younger than you. Then you find yourself in a job where you’re the oldest guy in your department by a few years. Then you move into a job where you’re older than your boss, and that makes you sit down and put your head in your hands.
I have not yet hit the age where the people who run the government are your age, or younger than you. That’s gonna be a tough one. The YouTube generation running the nation, communicating global strategies on their cellphones in txt msgs (omg do u want 2 nvade iraq??? ya u do? me 2 lets do it).
While you’re younger than a certain group of people (pop stars, professional people, politicians, whatever) you can imagine that you could end up as one of them, when you get to that age. 99.9% of us don’t end up as anything but ourselves, of course. And that’s fine, that’s as it should be. But seeing someone you were on the first grade playground with messing with the state of the world (and particularly messing with it in a way you’d never want it messed with) brings home in a forceful way that you’ve gotten to that same age without becoming anything more special than yourself.
Not that, as they said on Seinfeld, there’s anything wrong with that. Just being yourself is all you need to be. But there’s this whole mythology of Getting Somewhere In Life that clings to your brain and wriggles in anger when something points out that it has nothing to do with you.
And of course, the billionaire mercenary warlords and the pop stars and everybody else — they’ve just become themselves too. That’s just what, in rare cases, one’s “self” happens to look like.