After months of dithering, weeks of planning, a few weeks of not planning, then a couple of weeks of mad panic, the Hurlstone Agricultural High School Class of 1988 20 Year Reunion finally happened in Sydney last week.
And they’re still talking about it.
I’ve not attended reunions like this before – I missed the 10 year celebration – but I’m led to believe everyone approaches school reunions in the same way – fear, loathing and confusion. Why the heck would we all want to meet again after all this time – what’s the point? What if my life doesn’t shape up? What if (person x) is there? What do I say? Does this dress make me look fat? Should I wear a school tie?
(The answer to the last question is no.)
What is the attraction to organising and attending events like these? It’s probably 40% ‘teenage nostalgia’, 30% ’80s nostalgia’, 20% curiosity, and 10% ‘lets see how many other ways my own life could have turned out’.
It’s fascinating that as I write this, a week later, there are still FaceBook postings and comments about the event, and the minor controversies it stirred up. Who partied the hardest after we were kicked out of the venue? Who looked the worst in the party photographic record? Who was Mr X talking about when confessing he wished he’d asked them out all those years ago? (We’ll never know, but fairly sure his wife will get it out of him eventually)
Personally, I spent the week leading up to it immersed in a period of my life I’m pleased to say I ‘lived properly’. That’s not to say I lived it well (I have regrets and rejected FaceBook friend requests to prove it) but it was a farmyard of fun that I can remember savouring at the time. I can remember looking around the class, or the school, or certain musical performances or personal circumstances, and saying "you’re going to need to remember this well – slow down". I consider it one of my super powers, even now. And one of the reasons I’m going to get run over crossing the road one of these days.
"Life moves pretty fast" – as Ferris Bueller said.
So, in 2008, I cranked up the 80s music and put together a souvenir record based on the recollection of many of the witnesses and perpetrators of crimes and good deeds over the few years we spent together at Dear Old Hurlstone.
The reunion event melted away the intervening years. It’s not fair to pass any sort of judgement on people who are in ‘Reunion Mode’ – we’re all just remembering what things were like the last time we met, and falling back into the old patterns, except now we had beer. I don’t think I learned a lot about the human condition that night (like I don’t believe you learn a lot from the ‘7-Up’ programs) but I did figure out that, hey, people are more than what they did then and what they do now.
And, for me as a Dad, it really reinforced for me the belief that a lot of who you are, and who you become, is defined by who you choose to hang out with at that formative part of your life. For some, this was the first time we’d spoken in 20 years, but for others, the friendships that were made in school are still alive today – some guys are still best mates and the sort of people who can call each other for help at 2:20 in the morning.
If you’re in school at the moment, be sure you take the time to drink in the experiences you’re having. It may seem like a blur, or a prison sentence, but your decisions now about what (and in some cases who) you do will determine who you become. It’s worthwhile living your life deliberately, and keeping hold of friends who do the same. It’s about living a life worth remembering.
If you’re heading off for a reunion of your own – be prepared for anything. Maybe an offhand comment about a situation you’d wanted to forget forever. Maybe an old flame turning out to be so much more – or less – than you’d pictured them to become. Maybe a chance to make amends. Or maybe a chance to settle right back into the same witty banter and sparkling repartee that you’ve not shared with anyone for two decades. Be open to new experiences of an older you.
And if you were at the HAHS reunion – or wish you were – hats off to Mel and her hired goons for setting up a great environment for all this to happen. Look us up on FaceBook if you want to keep in touch.
Anyone else been at a reunion lately?