Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Article

RIP to Reunions

Amber Wilson
Amber Wilson

I got an invitation to my 20-year high school reunion this week. The first thought that crossed my mind was voiced by a woman who sounded suspiciously like Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances.

“Oh, how delightful! Oh how rather charming. Twenty years ago! How vintage,” the voice inside me said. The accompanying feeling was not dissimilar from the vibe one gets looking at a posy of flowers next to a tray of scones. Visions briefly flickered through my mind of clinking champagne glasses and being engaged in wondrous conversation while feeling cosy and loved, and wearing a fab outfit.

And then I realised – I can’t go to my high school reunion. Why not? Because I was a f***ing loser at school. And the minute I walk into a venue and see everyone in their groups again – the popular girls, the hot girls, the geek girls, the sporting girls – I will instantly sink back into the person I was in 1998. And no-one wants that. Really, no-one. Even me. Especially not me.

When I describe myself as a “f***ing loser” at high school, I don’t mean it lightly. And I’m not being mean. It’s just an apt description. I had a combination of the worst elements: a painful shyness, an overprotective mother who would call my friends’ parents to check on me, a strange face and body that was all misshapen and growing at the wrong times in offensive directions, a shocking clumsiness that meant I could never catch, throw or run – anything, ever – and the kind of social awkwardness that would make Boo Radley seem like a really laidback guy in comparison. I also listened to heavy metal, fainted regularly and at inappropriate moments, and made terrible jokes. The only thing I had going for me was I had a knack for winning spelling bees. Honestly, I can’t believe no-one ever beat me up, I was that uncool.

Not attending my high school reunion is not about being afraid to do so. I have undergone countless painful and awkward scenarios in my life. Countless. I’ve lost count, really. And neither is this some opportunity to prove to the cool girls – or life, the universe and everything – about what a great person I am, or how nice my shoes are, that my hair isn’t so frizzy now, or that I finally own a handbag that I didn’t buy at Kmart. That’s just simply not going to happen, because that’s not how social dynamics work. Once a dynamic is established between individuals and groups, it won’t change until fresh and regular injections of energy are introduced to change that dynamic. And that simply can’t happen over a two-hour dinner party at a posh art gallery café.

The reason I’m not going is because I’m finally done with torturing myself. I can’t see how re-entering my teenagehood can possibly be of any benefit to me. I wasn’t cool, or sporty, or hot, or even particularly likable. But that’s okay. The truth is I am so bloody grateful that my life was like that in my youth, because it forced me to grow a personality – and a pair of balls. My life has turned out – well – pretty damn fantastic. I’ve finally run out of f***s to give about things that don’t matter anymore, and the last thing I need in my life is to remember in explicit, bodily detail, a time when all that stuff really did seem to matter.

I’m sure high school reunions are great fun for people who actually enjoyed high school. And that’s fair enough; I’m not here to piss on anyone’s parade. But for the rest of us, quite frankly, it’s time to move on. It’s time for us to grow up and leave those shadows behind – those shadows dressed in polar fleece and Reeboks, those shadows that listened to David Lee Roth, those shadows that binged on Mint Slices after being fat-shamed by the prettiest girl at school. RIP to that kid, and RIP to those days. And thank God for that.

Amber Wilson hails from Hobart but spends her days haunting Melbourne’s CBD as a court and crime journalist. She loves whisky and rum and her WomanCat, Doris. She writes fiction in secret and at night.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Christopher Nagle

    October 3, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Amber, you do not have to revisit the social company of people you have long since had nothing to do with and no reason to do so, particularly if the experience of knowing them was negative.

    Roots and memory are important, but there are plenty of ways of revisiting and coming to terms with them without having to make social contact.

    Being a writer, I have revisited my memories in that way, and I have found that that is a constructive way of engaging them. That writing attracted contacts from that past who wanted to engage the narrative that I constructed of a particular time in our common past. We haven’t socialized, except briefly as virtual acquaintances. We have been as strangers passing in the night, stopping briefly to share a morsel of memory before moving on.

    You may have your own genre of narrative. Make your peace with your past using it. And let those still living elements in it who see it and are moved by it, enter it for as long or as briefly as they and you feel comfortable with it.

    In the following link is my attempt to come to terms with what was an often traumatic time in my life…boarding school

    https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1639834-Edgeborough-Testament-2-the-Old-School

  2. editor

    October 3, 2018 at 7:43 am

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  3. Ole Man a Ross

    October 3, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Amber, Amber, your concerns and misgivings are not unusual. Many of us remember our school days “as the best days of your life” as I was told by some many adults during my early learning years. Well, guess what, for me they were not! Dyslexia which was not even known about in the late 50’s early 60’s was my cross to bear! I was also hopeless at sport unlike my beloved Brother who absolutely excelled. In fact, our Father was so reluctant to spend money on football boots for me, taking an old pair of my boots and nailed on stops in the days when you could do that. I got sufficient passes to enter a trade where I totally excelled, getting pass marks that were light years away from my school results. Yes, I hated school, it was a necessary evil. However, time is great healer and some years ago Bro and I attended the Natone Area School 50th anniversary reunion riding proudly up to our old school on our powerful motor bikes, very ‘ballsy’ I thought at the time. The school seemed to have changed little, although most of the former pupils had. Some of us manage to age more slowly, others don’t. Quite a few people I didn’t recognise, others wore a considerable resemblance to their younger selves. In all I would rate the experience a 6 out of 10. Yours being only 20yrs, would I think create more apprehension…. perhaps hang on until the 50th comes around!

  4. elk

    October 3, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    I know where you are coming from Amber.
    This year is my 40th reunion from Kings Meadows High in Launceston and for my own sanity I wont be attending. The way the majority of my year treat me like a lesser person is reason enough to keep away from.

  5. Steven Lee

    October 4, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I understand where you are coming from Amber. I didn’t go to my 10yo reunion as I was only told the day before, so I told them what I thought of the invite. I’m told it want very good as the old groups still existed. But when I went to the 20 year reunion I enjoyed it – actually the groups had disbanded and everyone talked to everyone. It was great. Will do it again.

    PS – 20 years for you – if that’s you’re picture, your too young to have clocked up 20 years out of school!

  6. Russell

    October 12, 2018 at 7:44 am

    I went to a school reunion and it was really hot! Most people were actually the opposite of what they used to be. It’s called growing up.

    Why judge it before you even go?

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