Wednesday, 7 August 2013

High School Reunions - Would You Go?

I was a pupil at the Herschel High School in Slough from 1981 to 1987. Here I am in my school uniform after coming home from school. I'm wearing my ski jacket that was bought for me to go on a school ski-ing trip to Foppolo  in Italy.  My PE kit is in my Chelsea Girl carrier bag.  I'm wearing a badge that probably showed my support for saving whales or banning the ban or something equally right-on!


At 11, I was a tall, skinny girl who was pretty awkward, quite shy and lacking in self-confidence. I made some very close friends at school who I stuck with throughout my time there. We weren't the cool kids, but we had a good time together.  I mostly enjoyed being at school but I did have some dark times.

It was always assumed that I would be successful and go on to great things. I was very clever, but never driven or motivated.  I never went to university and I'm sure I would be a great disappointment to my teachers if they knew I went on to basically become a stay at home mum and never have a career.  I never reached my potential academically.  I have five A'Levels that have never been used for the greater good!

Not many of the popular girls had much time for me. I wasn't really like them with their pretty hair and make-up.  I liked different music. I wore different clothes. I got A's in all my subjects. I didn't fancy the popular boys.  I wore black nail varnish before it was cool.  I didn't go out to the same places as them.  I never really encountered any hostility, I just rarely crossed paths with the in-crowd. 


I met Ian at Herschel.  He was one of my best friends.  I always got on better with the boys than the girls. We had a lot of laughs at lunch and break hanging out with the lads.  I have some good memories.  I ended up going out with Ian in the 5th Year and ultimately married him some ten years later. (The biggest bonus from my time at Herschel!)

During my final year of the sixth form, I was living with my then-boyfriend and working until 2 am in a bar near Heathrow Airport to pay the rent. I was juggling A'Level revision with pouring pints for American businessmen. I decided not to go to university and stayed with my boyfriend instead.  I got pregnant, he cheated on me, we split up. It was messy.  I moved away from Slough when I had my son Joe. Being a single, teen mum was all-consuming, mentally and physically.  In the years before mobile phones or the internet, staying in touch with school friends was not easy, so I lost touch with almost everyone. (Thankfully not Ian, who remained in my life forever paving the way to us getting together in 1993 and getting married in 1997.)

I've only managed to properly stay in touch with a few of my school friends from this time and don't see them anywhere near enough as I would like to. Other friendships fizzled out as I was pre-occupied first with boyfriends and then with babies. I don't think I was very easy to get along with at times.  I didn't invest very much of myself when it came to friendships.

I rediscovered a lot of fellow pupils on Friends Reunited a few years back and caught up with those I was interested in. It was nice to find some old friends but most of the enthusiastic early communications dwindled away as we ran out of things to say to each other.

Facebook opened up windows into the lives of many more familiar names. I have followed the lives of a few of them via status updates and photo albums and it's nice to know what people have been doing over the years.  I was devastated when one of my closest friends at school died a few years ago.  We were in contact over the internet but he was someone I would have loved to see again and catch up with properly - but that can never happen now.

Now there is the opportunity of attending a School Reunion in the hall of my old school in October.  I always thought I'd love to attend a reunion, but now the chance has arisen I am filled with doubt.  School was 30 odd years ago.  Will I even recognise half the people there?  Will they recognise me?  Will they even care that I am there?  The insecurities of 11 year old me creep back into my psyche. Will I be seen as being old and grey and a bit overweight, or will they still see my teenage self inside?   I think my teachers will see me as a disappointment, an under achiever.

I have struggled on and off with mental health issues for years.  They were at their worst when I was a teenager when I spiralled into a really dark place.  It is only in the last few years that I have put this all completely behind me and come out of the fog that kept on threatening to engulf me. But I know that my stability is fragile.  I don't know if going back to my childhood home town will bring back memories of feeling negative and insecure.  Will I feel like I've failed, even though I know in my heart that I have achieved the most amazing thing in the world: being a mother to my wonderful children.

Or am I just over thinking a simple event that would reunite me with a few old friends and give me the opportunity to have a nosey at a few more?  I am scared that some of the people I held in the very highest esteem may disappoint me, or I'll disappoint them, or we won't even have anything to say to each other.  I see groups of the once popular kids on the reunion thread on Facebook already planning a night out after the event, reminiscing about old times that I was never a part of.  I feel like the girl who never made it into the inner circle of popularity again...although I never really desired it.  It's safer existing in your own little bubble. I just don't want it to burst and throw me back into the insecurities of when I was a teenager. I'm just not sure that I want to come face to face with 'old me' ever again.


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