35 YEARS SCHOOL REUNION!
This year marks thirty-five years since I graduated high school.
THIRTY-FIVE BLOODY YEARS. That is two thirds of my life ago (67% – so I did learn something there)!
And this Saturday, seventy or so ex-students are going to converge on a suburban pub for a reunion… which I happily confess I am excited and anxious about in equal measure.
Of course I’m excited at the prospect of catching up with current and old friends. We had a lot of good times (and a few not-so-good – but that’s part of growing up). These are the times which helped make us who we are, and our school friends (and how they treat us) often have a more profound effect on us subconsciously than we may realise.
I’ve been lucky enough to stay in touch with a handful of school mates – some have been constant friends that whole time, some have ebbed and flowed, some dropped off the radar completely, and a few others have popped up more recently. Thankfully, most of them are likely to be there Saturday – people I feel comfortable with, who can provide a safe enclave amongst the throng of those who are by this stage all but unknown to me again.
A couple of us actually organised a reunion ten years ago – nowhere near as thoroughly or formally as this one, though. For that one we just spread the date by word of mouth and around thirty-five people showed up. I suppose that could be considered an ice breaker for this week’s event, in some ways, and it was great fun and a lot of laughs.
So it’s only logical to assume this one will also be fun… but still, there remains some unspecified, can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it anxiety.
It’s not like I was ever beaten up in those two years – nor particularly bullied. I was rejected by the couple of girls I managed to summon the courage to nervously ask out – but I’ve done alright for myself in that department since then, and harbour no hard feelings there in any way (and that’s another essential part of growing up, anyway). I didn’t even have any huge teenage melodramas to speak of other than the crippling shyness.
This Saturday, of course, there will be a fair few people I never even met in attendance – I was at Guildford Grammar School for Years Eight through Ten, then moved to Morley Senior High School for Years Eleven and Twelve. There’s a bunch of attendees who left school at the end of Year Ten who I never met, or may have only crossed paths with fleetingly through those still at school. A year is a long time when you’re fifteen or sixteen.
Maybe it’s the fear of the unknown, of awkward social situations, of having to make small talk with someone to whom you were simply invisible in school. I was enormously shy and insecure back then – barely said boo to a mouse. Moving from a boy’s school to a co-ed one when I was so painfully introverted was confronting to say the least, and it’s hardly surprising I didn’t even register with most of “the cool kids.” I gravitated to and preferred the company of the loners and the rockers and the outcasts and the drinkers and my fellow awkward souls, anyway. (I’m sure some friends will read that and say “but I WAS one of the cool kids – wasn’t I?!?” Mad respect to you!)
I recall at that event ten years ago that one girl alleged I had been mean to her in school. I was aghast. Me? I was too busy being scared of my own shadow and desperate to be liked to be mean to ANYONE! Perhaps my quietness and shyness was mistaken as rudeness? It certainly wasn’t intentional – apart from anything else, in 1982 or 1983 there is no way in the world I would have been intentionally rude to any girl I halfway liked or even knew. I was, like most kids that age, frantically trying to sail the sea of hormone confusion, and would have leapt at the chance of a female friend. I was a VERY young sixteen, without a doubt, and proper dating would have to wait a couple of years.
Despite all the above, I’m absolutely certain that Saturday will be a great night… and in fact, whilst writing this, I think I have finally realised where the anxiety really comes from.
I have done a lot in these past thirty-five years – I am comfortable in my own skin nowadays in ways I could not have imagined being back then. Things may not be perfect (I wouldn’t mind losing a few kilos and gaining a few zeroes on the end of the bank balance) but I love my family, I like my friends, I enjoy what I do, and most of all – I like who I am.
And I wonder… all the people I haven’t seen in thirty-five years – will they assume I’m that same insecure, daggy kid? Will the night be as embarrassing as so many of those school days felt? Will I remember people? Will they care, or even remember me at all? Will old power cliques resurface? Will old grudges long forgotten by me – or more old misunderstandings – rear their heads?
I guess the answer to all of these questions is – Maybe, and maybe not.
But we’re all grown up now. We should be able to deal with whatever we imagined happened thirty-five years ago in high school. We should be comfortable with ourselves, and made peace with whatever grudges we held as kids.
So, the real question is, do I care about feeling a little nervous? And I don’t think I do, not really.
Roll on Saturday night.