There was this girl who was a classmate of mine from first grade through senior year in high school. She had an unusual, but beautiful first name. We were friendly, but we didn’t anything socially outside of the classroom. Our relationship was based on the activities between the brick walls of the school building.
She was very important to me. She was my class competitor.
During math class, if I didn’t raise my hand up in time to answer a question, she would get there first. We competed for awards. We each won numerous “Citizen of the Month,” citations. We always compared test scores, secretly wishing the other to flounder. We tried to outdo the other in the number of books we read per year. When I was picked to make the commencement speech at graduation in elementary school, she became the class president in junior high. We were both the literary editors of the high school yearbook. At the end of the senior year of high school, the school “ranked” all the seniors according to their grade point average. I beat her by one point; it was a very satisfying victory.
My parents were never the pushy parents who told me to succeed at any cost. I just enjoyed school. It was this girl, ambitious and super-focused, who forced me to step up my game.
We lost touch the minute we attended college. I hadn’t heard from her for years, until, well, no surprise — Facebook. I was excited, and nervous, to reconnect with her. We had a polite exchange of messages, but nothing very intimate. I think we were both too shy to have any real conversation. For all I know, she may not have give me a second’s thought during all these years.
But I have a little secret about her. This girl has been a part of my life for decades, in a very unusual way. I wanted to tell her about it, but when I mentioned it to Sophia, she told me not to tell her. It would make me look weird.
I’ll let you decide.
So what is this mystery I keep on talking about? How has this girl (now a woman) been an integral part of my life since high school?
On my first day of college at Columbia in New York, I went with my mother to open a bank account at Citibank. There was a branch a few blocks on Broadway. After depositing some money, I received my very first ever personal ATM card. I needed a password. Using my street name or middle name was too obvious. I wanted something personal, but obscure enough for a thief to never figure it out. So, I chose the first name of this girl from school, this girl with the unusual, but beautiful name. My competitor.
Since that time, years passed, and I have moved and changed banks numerous times. Citibank, Marine Midland, HSBC, Pacific Security, Wells Fargo, Bank of America — each receiving an ATM card with the exact same password — my classmate’s first name. As you can tell, I don’t change things easily.
This girl is now a woman, but I still can picture her raising her hand a second before mine in the fourth grade, and reciting the correct equation in math. She has become an iconic image in my mind. Her name, because of her association with my ATM card, has been forever connected to matters such as ambition, success… and my bank account. Has it worked out for me? Well…
Of course, by telling this story, it is also the end of an era. Once she finds out (if I choose to tell her) , I will need to change the password to my bank ATM for the first time in decades.
First, my blog template changes, now my ATM password will have to change. Again, it might seem like very small changes, but these items have symbolism, and symbolism is the most powerful God of all.
But maybe it is time to change the password on my ATM card. It is 2010, and my hair is graying. It is time to move beyond a life revolving around a competition with a girl from elementary school. This was never an effective and mature way to deal with existence beyond the 12th grade. Time to finally graduate from school — psychologically — and find my inspiration in the present.
Time for a new ATM password.