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.
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.