The jokes started through our small Facebook group. Was it really thirty years since we left school? Are we really that old? Who is going to go? Who else would be there? Our lives now, dispersed across states and countries, different responsibilities to family, children and work, meant some of us would front up while others would send their apologies. Much like our teenage approach, the group would go together, banded by naughty stories, shared experiences and a hive mind curiosity.
It was marvellous. No one had really changed and everyone was still much of an echo of whom they were when younger. All the questions about work, how many children, how many marriages, ‘do you know what such and such is doing now’ filled the room with sound, like a henhouse in full flight.
It was the normal drill with the usual suspects. Over the years, they have held these events and it turns out there are people who would go to a school reunion and those who wouldn’t be seen dead at such an event. It makes sense that people enquired about those who were not there to enjoy the wine, arancini balls and the individual lemon meringue pies.
Now, as parents to our own children, who face their own individual challenges, we reflect on new things to which we were blinded amidst our bolshy teenage awakenings. Truths emerging about the private tragedies and challenges of others while we traipsed through our school years completely unaware of the help they needed. Nothing was hinted at back then or if it was it we seemed to just move along to the beat of Duran Duran and the pull of spiral perms and hoop earrings. We were oblivious to quiet pains and private tortures despite spending our daily lives with these girls, some going quietly into hell without a word.
Any of the mean words we may have pointed to others now shamed us. As we stood with our wine glasses, speaking with women who could have benefitted from kinder words or more help to fit in all those years ago. The event gave us that opportunity to speak of inane topics bringing us mildly closer together as we finally found things in common.
We also speak about the huge achievements of others because ‘who would have thought’ and ask each other what is next. We still have the steam to keep achieving and doing stuff because that was the culture in which we were educated. We were lucky. Given access to experience across a multitude of fields; the arts, science, politics as well as the obscure but vitally enriching. All that money aimed at bringing out our best. Wow. What a concept. We never ask how we thought we all collectively fared.
Most of all we talk about each other. From this comes new information previously never uttered. Our nearly 50-year-old selves share private thoughts and feelings which have survived the years. Things like what we admired about the others, the times we were envious, how we had silently helped someone without knowing.
Most of all we laugh at who we know we are now. We are no longer naïve, self-absorbed and in search of cheap wine and boys. Businesswomen, mothers, wives, divorcees, rebels, advocates, thinkers, writers; it was all ahead of us but we didn’t know how it would turn up. We didn’t know what we wanted to be when we left school. Who does? For me it’s still a quest.
Now, some of us are just in search of more sleep, a smaller waist, a holiday, more time to be ourselves. Many of us have tried to tick all the boxes and be good girls. Others, such as myself, have strived to rock the status quo and go against the tide. Sometimes it has worked for us but we also know and feel those occasions where it has let us down entirely. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, kicked gleefully along by occasions like this which refuel our nostalgia and remind us that life is a lottery despite our best efforts.
But for me it is a reminder of whom I was and how I got to here. I am more motivated than ever to be more of myself despite what the world thinks. Sometimes it takes old friends to do that. Go to your school reunions. You might find yourself all over again.