I feel bright and clear today, despite a night of weird dreams about people I haven’t seen for years. That feels more common at present. Presumably it’s a combination of recognising that time has passed (something I’m not great at, which allows the months and years to slip by without ever noticing that it isn’t still yesterday) and that consequently much may have changed for those people, and maybe even for me. I recall talk of a school reunion when we were all approaching thirty, but that sounded like a nightmare hell I couldn’t even contemplate, and I backed well away from anyone who was trying to sort that out. Fifteen years later and it doesn’t seem so horrific a concept. It’s not entirely clear what the purpose of such events is. My main references are Grosse Pointe Blank and Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, both of which are I guess fairly positive about the whole affair. I was not well in my late twenties, I did not feel like any kind of success or that I had anything worth sharing or even showing off about. Racked with anxiety and depression, re-meeting the people I’d no choice but to know and deal with at school wasn’t at all appealing. I suppose the people I never wanted to see again loomed large in those thinkings, while totally ignoring all the people I actually liked and whom I hope have thrived. I guess I want to see a very select subset and know that everyone else is basically OK or in prison or something.
The concept of the reunion seems obvious and natural (I blame the above films and many others), but really what even is it? School is notorious for being the time when we had zero choice about who we spent every day with, is rife with bullying and being bullied, utterly miserable times punctuated with moments of happiness. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong. Do people have reunions with those they were banged up in prison with? I can’t even tell if being at secondary school was a happy time. I made a lot of bad decisions about who to be friends with, largely I think through sheer desperation to not be alone. Almost all of them are relationships I came to regret, and I can see such clearer paths to happiness and being interested in things than I managed; ain’t retrospect great. Sixth form was a little different: smaller group, fewer of the absolute twats who made education so grim. Still, some did manage to persist… Yeah, I think most of sixth form made me happy, and probably a chunk of GCSEs, the whole thing ever-improving as the year group got winnowed down. While I was good at schoolwork, honestly it was mostly easy – nice structured learning suited me well, whereas the freer do you own research and find things interesting really fucked me at university, or rather I fucked that up too.
Perhaps seeing some old friends recently has whetted my appetite for revisiting some of the memories of school and those seven or so years we spent together. Some of them I think about a lot, some even get dreams (not always good ones), so they’re clearly important to me, yet I’ve been terrible about reaching to out to anyone I’ve ever known. I regret that, but I still feel a resistance to making contact. I’m afraid of rejection for sure. But the prospect of having to deal with having let them slip away in the first place is distressing too. Perhaps if it had been intentional I’d feel better about it, but no – I’m lazy and forgetful, easily distracted by just being here, and I’ve neglected many people I care about as a result. Perhaps one horror of no longer blunting my brain at bedtime is that the past is rolling out its carpet again, filling up that nice empty space by the door. Thanks, brain.
What is it that I want from this? I’m sure there’s a bit of being seen which is both good and bad. Other than family, I’m not in regular contact with anyone who knew me before I was eighteen, and they’re countable on less than a single hand. I suppose I want to know if I’ve changed, or if there’s some essential property that’s remained the same – am I recognisably still me? Am I better or worse (whatever possible measures could be applied there…). Are the bridges I’ve burned re-buildable, or were they never really torched at all – maybe I just lost the map? Are the people I remember the same as well? I want to know if they’re happy. I think I thought a reunion would be horrible and competitive, but there’s nothing to have won at, just people doing different things. That feels as if it speaks to some inner self-confidence and esteem repaired over time. Other people will have done astonishing things, and maybe some of the stuff I’ve done is cool too, but living a relatively small life with a wonderful partner and cats is the thing I’m most happy about.
Well, I guess we’ll see if I manage to drag myself out of my torpor and fear and manage to say “hi” to some old friends.