Last night I attended a small, unofficial reunion of old school mates. The occasion was ’20 years since taking A levels’. The last timeI had seen most of these people was over ten years ago, but it felt like a shorter time. One reason for this is Facebook, but the more important reason is we spent 6 years together at school, from the age of 13 until we were 19.
Those intense years are the time when you are feeling most awkward, when you are on the verge of coming the grown-up you will eventually be, but not quite there yet. This can only mean that certain strong roles are taken up, clicks are formed and acts of cruelty are performed.
Last night brought all this back vividly. I had looked forward to seeing these people and it was mostly a pleasant evening. But it also showed how those old roles are so easily put on when they are the ones you used to wear when around these people.
I was all ready to talk about matters like grown-ups do. I did manage to do this with some people, but there were two girls (well women, but for me they are always girls), who just degenerated back to their – I don’t like using this word, but can’t think of another one – bitchy little selfs, like those twenty odd years never happened.
What made me most cross was the way they started to laugh at one of our class mates who wasn’t present. I tried to say let’s not go there, but it didn’t help. Then another ‘girl’ said: “oh come on you bullies”, and that had a small inpact. And even then they argued that there had been no bullying at our school. I tried to voice a slightly different opinion, but the conversation went elsewhere and the matter was dropped.
This episode however left me feeling a bit restless. When travelling home I was even angry at myself that I hadn’t pushed the topic further and told them how I had felt at school. Because last night reminded me again of it all.
I wish I had told them that I often felt slightly unsure when around them, that I often felt they must be laughing at me too behind my back like they were laughing at our class mate yesterday. That I often thought how lucky I was to have one really good friend at school, otherwise it would all have been a lot worse experience for me. How I always knew that even thought I got along with most of my class mates, I was never part of the inner circle.
But then again what good would that have done? It would have made the athmosphere too serious, when everybody just wanted to have a good time. I also doubt these two would have been able to process such talk in any kind of mature way, instead they would have got defensive and talked ill of me after I left. So maybe it was better this way, at least no bridges were burnt.
Anyhow, the evening also made me remember how relieved I was when I started my studies at the university. No one there knew me in beforehand. There was no baggage from those incertain teenage years. Also, eveybody was there out of their own free will and learning was what most people wanted to do. There was no longer a need to be embarrassed about wanting to do that. I felt at home even though I had actually liked being at school, despite the things mentioned above.
I have since then found my place in this world and it seems that most of my class mates have too. I guess those places are so different that the only common ground is our shared past. I just wished we could at some point meet on it as grown-ups.