About six months ago, I found out that my school is organising a reunion next March, as 2010 marks (gulp!) a decade since we did our A Levels, metaphorically shouldered our spotted handkerchief on a stick, and set off to seek fame and fortune. The question is, do I want to attend and find out in person what the results are of those wanderings?
I changed schools at 13 due to my dad’s job taking us to the other side of the country, and deeply resented it, wishing to return to my old school where I’d been perfectly happy, thank you very much. I think – well, I know – that the first three years at my new school (3rd – 5th form) were coloured by this desire to be somewhere else. I was slow to make friends because everyone had known each other for two years already; I had issues with a couple of people bullying me – I didn’t realise it at the time, but in hindsight, that’s exactly what it was – and I found it very hard to fit in. Eventually I found some sort of equilibrium, but I didn’t exactly have a blast, and quite frankly, if it was a fifth year reunion, there’s no way I’d go.
Sixth form was a lot more enjoyable, though, as if the trappings of sixth form life – freedom from ties, a big house to ourselves, toast and hot chocolate at break times and study periods spent watching Neighbours – freed people up from the pettiness and cliques of the previous five years. A lot of the people I didn’t get on with had left, and new people arrived for whom the past three years meant nothing, and I could start afresh. I have some great memories of events and things from this period, but – are they strong enough to propel me back there for a day of reminiscing?
I’ve kept in touch with some people – those I cared about – and the rest? I wish them well, and I hope that they’re happy and contented, but I don’t really want to strike up some lame friendship based on the sole fact that we attended the same school for a few years. I find it hard enough to keep in touch with those people I truly like, let alone a bunch of people bound together only by a striped blue and red tie.
When Facebook first became so popular, I was amazed at how many old school people got in touch, including those who a) never liked me and b) I never liked. It was as if this new medium of communication erased the fact that we’d lost touch – and there was a reason for this! – and just because it was now easy to find people you knew from years before, that you of course wanted to now “be friends” and know every minute and mundane detail of their lives.
The one good thing about Facebook, in this respect, is the ability to have a quick look into the lives of people you once knew at school. Through mutual “friends” and some people’s complete disregard for privacy settings, it’s possible to look at photos of events such as weddings and birthdays that allow you a glimpse of those who you haven’t seen for nearly ten years. It’s amazing how much that can be gleaned from a photo album – a quick look at the tagged people reveals who is still in touch with who. A few glances allow you to see what people look like (she’s dyed her hair blonde! My god, he looks much older than 27) out of their teens. A look at their wall if it’s accessible. And then that’s it, five minutes’ guilty pleasure, you’ve satisfied yourself that they’re doing OK, you stand up well against them, that your social life is just as good, so it’s back to your real world and real friendships with the people you actually care about.
A reunion would be a longer version of this, but it would also mean having to deal with people face to face, rather than through the anonymity of a computer screen. And I can’t decide whether I want to leave the past where it belongs, or bring it into my present.
The thing a reunion would be good for is the chance to put some demons to rest. I could walk back into that school and see it through a 27 year old’s experienced eyes, rather than a shy 17 year old who never quite fitted in. To all intents and materialistic purposes, I’m a “success”. I have two degrees (my school always had a high emphasis on academia), one from a prestigious foreign university. I am with a gorgeous, lovely man, whose height and dreamy brown eyes are bound to impress the ladies. And whilst my job does not renumerate me in the way that bankers are, it is at least interesting – I’ve never encountered that non-committal nod that greets the announcement that someone is an actuary. It’s not as good as the reaction when I was at the circus school, but it’s still good.
Although I feel mean and lowly for even thinking this, there could also be potential for considerable schaedenfreude at this reunion. Going from someone regarded as hopeless with men and marked out only for her academic prowess and the ability to play piano, to a confident, loved up, happy trapeze artist could be a poke in the eye for those who I never got on with.
So, what is it to be? To use an excess of proverbs, shall I let sleeping dogs lie, or go back with all guns blazing? Do I take the higher moral ground and rest easy, knowing I’m comfortable with who I am now, or do I use this as an opportunity to revise how people view me? They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression – but can you make a good second one? Do I feel that this is even necessary?
I need to make a decision relatively quickly, as the reunion date coincides with our planned trip to Thailand, which would mean leaving slightly later than planned. The ironic thing is that the girl I’m most in touch with, with whom I went to university and lived for two years, the one person who if she was going I definitely would too, is the girl I’m meeting in Thailand. Of course, she’s egging me on to go so I can pick up the gossip for both of us.
‘Cause we’ve seen on Facebook, you see, that Robert has got really fat…