Wednesday, October 29, 2014

20 Year High School Reunion



Blink and suddenly 20 years have whooshed by.

It had been a long time between drinks so I flew back to my hometown for my 20 Year High School Reunion, an opportunity to spend a few days away on my own and catch up with old friends and family and to see just how little sleep I could function on - apparently 3 hours a night for 4 nights in a row is doable but then I need another 3 nights at home to recover. It was all worth it.

I grew up in Wollongong, a big industrial city just south of Sydney which boasts beautiful beaches,a relaxed lifestyle and a sort of gritty edge that I loved. It's a predominantly working class city thanks to the BHP Steel Works hovering in the distance. Your parents were either in some way connected to the Steel Works or were part of the professions that supported this community which made it a close knit city and it was a great place to grow up.

I attended the local co-ed public high school down the road from home. I walked to and from school every day for 6 years, 13 if you include Primary School. I'd pick up my friends along street on the way and wait for them to finish their piano lessons or homework or clean their teeth before heading off. The school was a melting pot in terms of cultural diversity with a multitude of nationalities thrown in together and kids coming from all walks of life. With over 1000 students we all bunked in together in a kind of 'sink or swim' fashion.  Parents had minimal involvement in High School back then and there didn't seem to be the mollycoddling that's around these days. It was free public education at its best and I am so grateful for the experience.

Needless to say I have the fondest memories of High School. Our year group was a 'good' one in that everyone generally got along despite having their own little groups of friends. Since I left home straight after school finished to go off to University I was super keen to see everyone again. I'd lost touch with many friends due to the tyranny of distance and although I had kept in contact with some, there were many I hadn't seen for 5, 10, 20 years. Love it or loathe it, Facebook has been a saving grace in terms of keeping in touch with friends and resulted in the Reunion being a massive success with over 100 of us from our year group attending.

Nothing beats a good face to face contact and the friends you grow up with in your formative years are super special. You know these people really well. They know you. You see them every day, spend huge amounts of time in their homes and know the intricacies of their home life and their family dynamics. You know their issues and they know yours. I particularly have a soft spot for the friends I went through Primary School with, having known them for around 30 years now. We always have a ball when we catch up.



Onto the Reunion itself, it was exactly as I thought it would be. Lots of "OMG you haven't changed a bit!", "remember when?" and "I can't believe you have 5 kids, that's crazy!!!". No one had 5 Kids except me. Everyone was essentially the same, in a good way. There was a lot of openness and honesty. I loved hearing how everyone has been spending their time. After 20 years, everyone was now fairly set on their designated path. There had been marriages, children, divorces and mid-life crises. If you weren't following your passion or didn't know what that was after High School you now did and were on your destined path.  If your relationships weren't working out, you had either divorced or had come to some kind of acceptance. No one had been immune to struggles although there were some truly heartbreaking stories. There really are no guarantees in life when you see the randomness in some of the stories. Some of our class mates were no longer with us through accident, illness and suicide, a sobering reminder to be kind.

The general consensus by the end of the night:

Life is short.
Marriage and Children are hard but great.
No one is doing exactly what they thought they would be doing after High School and that's OK.
Apparently I need to get a Thermomix.
We should have a Reunion every year because it was just so much fun.
Aside from genuine curiosity, no one cares overly much what you do for a living, they are more interested in what sort of person you have become.
Good friends are those where you can pick up where you left off 20 years ago as if no time has passed at all.

There were lots of photos at the Reunion that I had never seen before, reminders of good times I had forgotten about.


and times I never would have thought existed without some form of photographic evidence. I spent weekends at our farm in Braidwood and apparently I used to ride my horse in a bikini.



By the end of the night my cheeks were sore from laughing so much and I had lost my voice. Sometime after 2am we called it a night, the Responsible Lad that was always there 20 years ago to drive the inebriated home safely was there again. After being dropped off I fumbled around for the lone spare key, dropping it a few times in the long grass before tripping down some stairs in my heels to collapse on my sister's sofa fully clothed. Just like old times. 




37 comments :

  1. This looks like so much fun, how wonderful that so many of your old friends were able to go. I'm not in contact with anyone from my school days, I can't imagine what it would be like to see them all now. I'm glad you had such a good time.

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    1. It was really strange CJ. I was a bit nervous not having seen some of them for such a long time but it really was just like old times and if anything everyone was a bit more chilled out and open than we were in High School :-)

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  2. OMGoodness! Eleanor is EXACTLY you! Wow!

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  3. How wonderful and I loved hearing the story of you growing up. I personally have never been into the school reunions, however my sister still goes to them every time they have them and we are up to 36 years ago now. On the Thermomix front (OMG) yes you do need to get one. I've had one for 3.5 years and I only have 2 kids. Old fashioned cooking with modern appliances. Actually the Retro Mummy just wrote a post recently on the "new" model Thermomix even though she had the old one. My friend from school just got one last weekend. They are amazing. Have a good week. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

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    1. But can they produce enough food for 7+ people? It just doesn't seem possible and I'm not into doing double batches of things for 1 meal....will keep pondering, thanks Kathy, everyone is certainly raving about them!

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  4. Oh Mel, how lovely that you were able to attend. What a gorgeous girl you were, and still are now.
    (PS. I vote no to the thermomix).

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    1. I'm not convinced by the Thermomix either, I don't like gadgets or gizmos and can't imagine it producing enough food for a family of 7 with massive appetites...

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  5. Hey Mel,
    Your daughter is the image of you! It looks like a cracking time was had. I love the image of you fumbling with your key in the lock, like old times. And if I knew 20 years or so ago how fab I looked, I'd have worn a bikini in winter ;)
    Leanne xx

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    1. So true - a flat stomach and toned arms were not appreciated by my 14 year old self!

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  6. What a great time! I recently attended my (ahemm) 30 year reunion and it sounded much the same Mel! The photos that show up are so worth it.. So funny, but everyone does say 'you haven't changed a bit'! cheers Wendy

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    1. Personality-wise everyone seemed pretty much the same and with a few exceptions everyone looked the same to me as well just a bit older. It was the guys who had lost their hair or were really grey that looked the most changed. give us another 10 years and I think there'll be more of a difference in how we all look :-)

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  7. I loved my 20 year reunion too - can't wait for the next one
    Wish I'd appreciated that flat tum and skinny arms I used to have too!!

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    1. I know Ally, and that fast metabolism I thought I'd have for life too, sigh :-)

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  8. I am so glad that you went and had such a wonderful time, it sounds like a great trip down memory lane. I can never remember if we lived in Wollongong or not, but I do so love the name! xx

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    1. It's affectionately known as "The Gong" for short :-)

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  9. Eleanor is a a mini you Mel! Oh my goodness yes she is. Loved seeing theses photos :-)
    (My twenty year reunion is next year...gulp.)

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    1. She gets that quite a bit, poor lass. I actually finished High School in 1995 too Brydie, I went away to Germany for a year so had an extra year to catch up on when I got back but these were the guys that I went through school with for all but 1 of my schooling years....x

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  10. You're lucky to have had such a positive school reunion.
    I absolutely loved the 2 primary schools I attended and have very fond memories of both (one was a blue collar public and the other was a private) and would attend a reunion in a flash. I also LOVED uni and the 2 degrees I did had only 20 odd students per year group so I still keep in contact with many old classmates and one of my best friends is someone I went uni with.
    However I am afraid I utterly loathed my high school years (all girls school) and don't have a huge number of pleasant memories. Bullying was rife and while most people copped it at one point or another, it certainly wasn't a pleasant or memorable environment for most of us (and I was lucky to have nowhere near a bad time as some). It was a pretty bad mix of people I guess. I did attend a 15 year high school reunion 5 years ago and it was just as bad I thought it would be - gossiping, people refusing to talk to others, etc. After that evening I thought never again, life is too short to dredge up an unpleasant part of your past. So when my 20 year reunion rocked around recently I politely declined and used having a brand new baby as an excuse. A few friends did attend and apparently it was as bad as the 15 year one!

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    1. Oh no, sounds like a nightmare! I guess High School is pretty hit or miss depending on the dynamics of the year group you go through with...

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  11. Look at you! Gorgeous then, gorgeous now! It sounds like a great night.

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    1. I'm so glad I went, it really was a lot of fun x

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  12. I had mine a few weeks ago too (go class of 94 hey!). It was almost word for word exactly a you described. Time has smoothed off some of our rough edges and we have less to prove now which made everything flow all the more smoothly. There is already a Christmas catch up in the works too!
    PS.You looked gorgeous then and now!

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    1. Thanks Rachel....a Christmas catch-up already? I wish I didn't live so far away from everyone :-)

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  13. Oh, sounds fabulous! I had my 20 year reunion last year (oh no - year before actually!), it was fabulous too and yes partly thanks to Facebook so it wasn't quite like going in cold to people I hadn't seen for 20 years, I kind of knew what they were up to. I think 20 years later is a good time - we are old enough not to care too much or judge too much - people told me our 10 year reunion (I was o/seas) was quite different and not particularly pleasant at all.
    PS My Thermomix consultant has 6 kids and lives with parents so cooks for 10 every night in it - plus I love mine :-)

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    1. Hi Amanda, another nod to the Thermomix! We didn't have a 10 year Reunion (that I'm aware of) but if we did a lot of people's circumstances would have been so different to now as most of the career/personal relationship changes seem to have happened over these past 10 years :-)

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  14. Loved seeing all those old photos Mel! Our 20 year reunion should be coming up next year. We never got around to organising a 10 year reunion though (yep, we were *those* kinds of kids) so I'll be interested to see if anyone manages to sort something out! I know I don't have the time or inclination to do it. I keep in touch semi-regularly with a couple of high school people and the rest I get to see what they're doing from FB (and to be honest, I'm pretty happy with it that way!)

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    1. I'm a hopeless organiser too but I'm really grateful to the 2 girls who organised the entire thing themselves as they did such a great job x

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    1. Aw thanks Stacey, the 90's was such a fun decade wasn't it? x

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  16. What a wonderful night, Mel! And you're right, good friends are those that even if you don't see them very often, you pick up where you left off. x

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  17. Oh Eleanor is so like you Mel. So pretty! Glad you had a lovely time! Bee xx

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  18. You seriously have not aged a single iota. As gorgeous now as you were then hun xx

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  19. I can't get over how alike you and Eleanor are!

    Geography has kept me from all but one of my school reunions, and that was one only 3 years after we all went off to uni.

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  20. Oh my goodness, what fun! That sounds like a blast! And Eleanor is SO like you - I bet you get that a lot, right? Happy memories of school days are a precious thing. x

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  21. I read this a while ago but didn't have time to comment, then! Sounds like a fantastic reunion, I loved my 20th, too, everyone was so real and so much more friendly than they were at school. Yey for state schools! My girls are at a state high school now, and to be honest, there is little opportunity from the school for us to mollycoddle them, except at home! So different from primary school. And probably a good thing! your post made me think about school again, and strangely enough I bumped into two school acquaintances within a few days of reading about your reunion!

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  22. Aw, this is so lovely! And you really do look exactly the same :-) x

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  23. Oh, what a lovely post, made me smile. All those 90s fashions. And yes, your appearance hasn't changed at all! x

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