Friday, 14 June 2013

Schooling a response.

It's said to contain some of the best years of your life, but truthfully you either love it or you hate it.
I'm talking about school.
If you're lucky, it can teach a love of learning, a curiosity to discover the world and marvel in its intricacy, provide some of the best friends you'll ever have, and prepare you to face the world on your own.
But school is also about petty quarrels, superficial values, crushed hopes, and extreme schisms across a multitude of divides. From the imposed ones of what stream of maths you're allowed to take, what career paths you're encouraged not to dream for, to who's cool versus who is able to slip through the years virtually unknown.

When high school ended it was nice to put it all behind you; take what you want and leave the rest behind, brush the dirt from your shoes as you step through into a brand new world. Start again, from scratch. As you pass through the years, exploring the insular universes of university, work, travel, living abroad... school slowly fades into the background, only rearing its head when you run into familiar faces or familiar places. So when a reunion looms on the horizon, you start wondering.
How many people do you wish you'd kept in contact with? Wish to reconnect with, hopefully pick up where you left off, but on a better footing.
How many people do you wonder what they're doing, even if you know you'll never stay in contact outside of this?
How many people do wish you'd put aside your petty quarrels and befriended all those years ago?
Will this provide the opportunity to make amends? Is it too late?
But there's always the other side of the coin: how many of your classmates are still caught up in those petty rivalries? 'My rock is bigger than yours', 'my baby bump bigger', 'my job cooler, more impressive...' Have they grown up at all in that interspersing time?
Have I?

I suppose you can say curiosity won the day. I went. There were people I wanted to see, people I wanted to reconnect with, people I wanted to connect with for the first time. And there wasn't anyone I didn't want to see. I'd matured since the days of those petty rivalries. Surely they had too. So I went, with some misgivings, few expectations, and I enjoyed it. We'd grown up, we'd arrived with the same motivation, the same mindset, the same desire to celebrate the opportunities we had been granted through a thorough education with a brilliant cohort.

It was delightful to catch up with colleagues, to hear about the success they'd made of their lives thus far. The pure enjoyment they were getting out of life and the work they loved. To hear how they were following their dreams, regardless of whether these had changed or just adapted as we aged. To be remembered for all the right reasons, to be remembered at all...

What the night also offered was a chance to catch up with some of those teachers who had helped to make school so memorable. Those who'd inspired you to learn, who'd made classes worth going to, who'd tolerated your antics however outrageous and whom you just knew had gossiped about you in the staffroom afterwards.

However each evening of happiness is impinged with elements of sadness. Those students who hadn't come, whom you knew would never come, those who had disappeared off the face of the earth and even their friends had no idea of what had become of them. Teachers who had succumbed, however unwillingly, to mental disorders, to early onset dementia. Those who had pored their life into the school to make your experience of learning such a positive one. Those who had been forced to walk away.

Our next reunion is as much as 10 years away.

I wonder...

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