To go or Not to go that is the question ...
A couple of years ago I got an invite to attend my Year 10, 30 year School Reunion. We had a small reunion five years ago and the girl who organised it put in a huge amount of work and I am not sure she got a huge amount of thanks for it! So Kelly I would like to say thanks in case no-one did at the time. I remember that organising this had more than a few dramas for Kelly but mostly it was a pretty good night.
Anyway, a different Kelly has decided that she is going to try to rustle up a group for a reunion. 30 years since doing year 10 that sounds like a lifetime ago and it was. So much has happened since then in all of our lives and I am sure that many of us are very different people to who we were in high school, though many really haven’t changed all that much at all. I went to an all girls high school and we had a huge school there was over 1000 girls at it’s peak when I was there. So as you can imagine our year group had every clique under the sun, the nerds, the toughies, the pretty girls, the dags, the sporty, the girls that all had boyfriends and so many more!
I remember at the last reunion there was that group of friends who were still all incredibly tight. They have remained in touch since high school in fact so much so that a few of them have married each other’s brother’s so they are now not only friends but sister in laws too. It really isn’t and hasn’t been like that since leaving school for me. I left school with very few close friends, most of my friends now are from very different circles. I have left the area I grew up in, though many of the people from both of the schools I attended are still living there (clearly they were much more organised than me and bought homes much earlier than I did because at 30 when I was looking that area was well out of my price range!)
I went to a number of high school’s growing up. My first one was in Fiji and was the International School with all the other expat kids I did my first year of high school there. Due to my age (I was only 11 turning 12) on return to Sydney I couldn’t be placed into year 8 even though academically it would have been fine. Hindsight probably says that I should have actually gone right back to year 6 to have that awkward resettlement year in primary school where kids are still that little bit more forgiving rather than try to do it in year 7. Either that or perhaps stayed in Fiji a little bit longer.
I don’t really have the fondest memories of high school in Australia at either of the schools I went to but somehow I made it through – I wouldn’t say it was unscathed though. In years 7-10 I felt like I was the odd one out. Everyone else had that really close group of friends and I always felt that I was trying to hard to be included in a group and whilst I had friends I would say that I floated between a few different groups. Not necessarily by choice but more by where I was feeling more accepted on any given day. Things didn’t improve a whole lot when I changed schools for years 11-12 (again I am not sure that was a great idea changing from an all girls school to a co-ed school at 15 when I was just discovering boys!)
It’s hard to describe my high school years without feeling quite sad, I always felt incredibly left out and for the majority of year 7 I read books in the library at lunchtime so that I didn’t look like a “Nigel No Mates” in the playground. Towards the end of the year slowly I was accepted into a group and was “assimilated into the borg” that is teenage girls! It didn’t help that I was bored in class because I had done the work but it was evidently clear that if I was smart there was little to no chance ever of assimilation. So this set up the never ending conflict between my parents and teachers on one side who knew I had far more ability than I was using and my desire to be accepted and assimilate which meant being a lot dumber because no-one liked the smart kid – all of this added to the fact I was only 11 and I really just didn’t understand the social structure of how a girls high school worked. My previous experience of high school in Fiji was that everyone was friendly because everyone was new and everyone had left their friends behind from wherever they had come from so everyone was as equally lonely so wanted friends. Plus I am talking 1981-83 so no internet and pretty much a 6week turnaround in letters to Australia! Being an expat these days I think would be a very different experience.
This however, was not the case at the Girls High School when I got back to Australia. There was a most definite pecking order and this was not determined by the smart girls (or even the pretty girls) but by the tough crowd. Today my experience of high school would be described as bullying but back in the early 80’s it really was very much a suck it up princess and take a cup of concrete scenario. I would probably say that somewhere in-between is probably a better solution. Kids can’t be expected to be liked all the time by everyone but it is very, very lonely having no-one to turn to at school.
So all of this brings me back to the talk of the 30 year reunion. I was incredibly nervous attending the reunion 5 years ago and 5 years ago things actually weren’t too bad in my life. I mean I was no world beater, but I had completed my degree, I had 3 healthy kids, I was (still am to the same guy lol) married and we had (still have) a nice home in the Illawarra. It was nothing to get excited about, I hadn’t done anything amazing like invent post-its* or anything like that but it was nothing at all to be ashamed of. As I said I was very nervous about going that night so somehow I managed to arrange with one of the girls that I was friendly with at school but hadn’t seen well pretty since school that I would pick her up and drive. At least that way I wasn’t walking in alone. As I expected when walking in the room I felt just like I was back at school. You could tell the girls that were still incredibly close in fact this was probably just a normal Saturday night for them which also meant that they really weren’t interested in catching up with anyone else. There were others who also kept in touch but not quite as regularly as the first group and then there were a few like me coming along to say hi to whoever might be there and hadn’t really kept in touch with anyone since school. The other big issue for me was that none of the girls that I had “hung” with at school came along. This in part was because they are all still super close and had no interest in seeing anyone else. So in an instant I was 40 years old being transported back to the year 7 playground 11years old with no-one to talk to. In fact so much so it took three attempts before I could actually find a seat each time I went to sit down I was told that seat was being saved for x. Nothing like being made to feel welcome.
Between then and now I would say my life has turned pretty much upside down and to crap! If I was concerned about not looking or appearing successful 5 years ago when at least on the outside I had it mostly together, oh boy how will I even pull off an appearance of having it together this time! Particularly with the spectacular breakdown that has occurred over the last 12mths there are some things that are just a little bit hard to hide, like the walking stick or the fact my licence has been revoked on medical grounds, or the panic attacks that come from nowhere and can be debilitating to name a few. What do I say? Do I be honest fess up and say well the truth is that basically I have had depression and anxiety in some form or another since you were mean to me in high school. These days I live with the fallout of some bad choices, addiction (to many things), PTSD, disassociative disorder and many, many other issues. Or do I just smile and nod and pretend nothing happened and that we don’t do “that” here.
Sure the high school stuff was a long, long time ago but it was the beginning. It was where I taught myself coping mechanisms so that I would be accepted (possibly not liked but accepted was better than years in the library lonely!)
It is hard enough writing a blog and knowing that when I put something out there I really don’t know who will read it. So there is an element of vulnerability already there, what if I walk into the room and find out people have actually read it? How will that feel? I mean it is one thing knowing that a few close friends read it, and sure I know some of the people who read my ramblings in real life but most I don’t. Also, even the ones that I might know who are reading my ramblings I don’t see them every day so I am able to kid myself that it is ok.
What if I go and they haven’t read my blog (because even though I don’t want them to it would be easier) and they ask how’s things? It is about 6mths away so in reality I could be significantly better by then but what if I’m not? What do I say? Oh I had a mental breakdown and I can’t work anymore and I can’t drive and basically I can’t do very much at all! Do people really want that honesty at a reunion? Probably not.
Then of course there is that part of me that says well most of these girls didn’t like me at school and I really haven’t kept in touch with many people from school, probably only a handful now thanks to FaceBook. So will it be any different this time? It clearly wasn’t at the 25 year reunion so is it likely to be much different 5 years later?
What if I go and have a big panic attack because you know I will already be feeling vulnerable walking in the door and that isn’t likely to help in anyway at all and will sure bring attention my way. Though that won’t be the type of attention I will want! What if they see that I am just a big fraud and I am really just like a big lump of kinetic sand and I can hold it all together on the surface but squeeze too tight or push too hard and I will just fall apart. That won’t really be the look I will be going for! Then of course there will be the ridiculous paranoia that will set in that they will all talk about me behind my back after the night. Which in itself is even more ridiculous because honestly why would they! They didn’t care enough to be my friend or talk about me 30 years ago so why would they now!
FOMO – this is a huge one, I missed the 25 year get together for the school I attended for years 11-12 I had ummmed and ahhhed about attending right up to the very last minute and in the end completely chickened out. Then I saw the photos of the people who went and how much fun they had and how much I had wished I had gone.
Lastly it is just fear! Fear that because things aren’t nearly as together as they were 5 years ago they will judge me. Fear that they will ignore me like they did 5 years ago and 30 years ago at school. Fear of everything really (including fear that some of them will read this!)
I don’t want pity from anyone or people to say of course we will talk to you etc. A lot of this is just the random thoughts running through my head. I would also argue though that these are quite likely the random thoughts that could be running through a lot of the other girls I went to school with (or even yours if you are invited to a reunion) and sometimes it helps to know you are not alone! The other thing of course is that in the last five years Facebook has really exploded. Many people were on Facebook but not really into it in 2011 (it had only really been around for four years then,) but now days anyone I want to keep in touch with from school I can through the beauty of Facebook. Plus what do you actually talk about at the reunion if you know what they are up to because of Facebook.
There is a part of me that wants to go, there have been a number of girls from school who have followed my journey and have been incredibly supportive in the last 12mths so it would be nice to see them. There is also the big part of me that says just stay at home put your Pj’s on, hire your favourite movie, get a tub of ice cream and forget all about it. Maybe I suggest we do a Facebook reunion and all stay at home in our Pj’s, watching the same movie eating ice-cream and chatting online about “the good old days”. Ultimately I just won’t know until much closer to the time just how strong I am doing mentally and physically. In the meantime I will continue to work myself up into a little school reunion anxiety ball right up until the day.
Did you go to any of your school reunions?
* Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion
When I was in Yr 10 in 1986 some how we managed to convince the teachers of JGHS and JBHS that we should enter what was the 2SM Rock Eistedfodd we made it all the way to the finals dancing to this song!