Go­ing back for more...

Class­mates get classier as time goes on and bonds grow stronger with the pass­ing of mile­stones

Central and North Burnett Times - - READ - BY Tracey Hordern

‘‘ I love hav­ing reg­u­lar con­tact with my old school mates. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see the twists and turns, sad­ness and joy of our lives over the decades.

MOST of us have at­tended or at least been in­vited to a school re­union at one point or an­other in our adult lives. While the prospect of a class re­union is ex­cit­ing for some, for oth­ers it can arouse a range of emo­tions from dis­in­ter­est to sheer ter­ror. But for most of us, our first re­sponse to a class re­union is most likely to be cu­rios­ity. Does the pret­ti­est girl at school still have it? Is the class dag still nerdy? Did the ugly duck­ling grow into a swan? And who went on to achieve great things since leav­ing school? And was it some­one you ex­pected who would be a win­ner in the game of life? School re­unions also present a marker of time and for those who left school decades rather than years ago, the march of time can be con­fronting. When Vanessa Gor­man ap­proached the venue that was host­ing the 30-year re­union of her all-girls class, she peered in­side the win­dows and thought she was at the wrong func­tion. “What I saw was a whole lot of mid­dle aged women in­side – and then with a shock, I saw my own re­flec­tion in the glass and re­alised I was in the right place!” Lucy Ash­ley also left school decades ago and says she never misses a class re­union. “Most of our class turn up for them, still – even though we grad­u­ated in 1976. We also have a re­ally ac­tive Face­book page so we all keep in touch through that. I love hav­ing reg­u­lar con­tact with my old school­mates. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see the twists and turns, sad­ness and joy of our lives over the decades.” And that’s the thing about class re­unions, it’s pos­si­bly the only event you could at­tend where ev­ery­one is the same age, give or take a few months. There’s also a shared ex­pe­ri­ence – child­hood and ado­les­cence. But for most of us, the emo­tional re­sponse to a class re­union is go­ing to be a re­flec­tion of the emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence at school. “I had a happy school life and I was lucky to form re­ally close friend­ships that still hold up to­day,” says Lisa Doust who at­tended Willyama High School in Bro­ken Hill. “All of my fe­male friends were sweet and kind and re­ally good fun, and our male friends re­ally looked out for us. “Our school re­unions are in­cred­i­bly happy events where ev­ery­one is thrilled just to be alive and to still have such strong and un­break­able con­nec­tions. Be­cause ev­ery­one was scat­tered far and wide af­ter school, re­unions pro­vide the chance to re­con­nect and re­mem­ber all the fun times and the heart­break­ing events that united us for life.” Louise Heather has re­cently at­tended her 10th an­niver­sary class re­union and also loved the ex­pe­ri­ence. “My core group of friends is from high school and we’ve stayed very close so it was a good ex­cuse to get to­gether. But it was also great see­ing some class­mates that I hadn’t seen in a while. “While my ex­pe­ri­ence of high school was great and I look back re­ally fondly on those years, I also know school wasn’t a great ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­one,” says Heather. “I know that some of my old class­mates didn’t re­ally want to at­tend the re­union. They thought they had moved on in their lives and per­haps saw go­ing to the re­union as tak­ing

I no­ticed we were all so much more com­fort­able in our own skins. It was just won­der­ful to see each other and there was gen­uine con­nec­tion

a step back.” For oth­ers, school re­unions are some­thing to be avoided at all costs – so painful are their mem­o­ries. Nathan Den­nersen, aged in his mid-40s, re­sponded to the prospect of his class re­union with a de­fin­i­tive No. “I’d rather cut off my own head than at­tend a class re­union!” ex­plains Nathan. “But that’s be­cause I was tor­tured at an all-boys school and it was an aw­ful time for me and some­thing I’d pre­fer to for­get.” And sadly, he is not alone. At my own re­cent school re­union, one of the or­gan­is­ers of the event told us that she re­ceived an email in re­ply to a re­union in­vi­ta­tion from one of our old class­mates. Ac­cord­ing to her re­ply, see­ing any of her old class­mates was the last thing she wanted. It was shock­ing and sad­den­ing to re­alise an old class­mate felt that way. But look­ing back, this par­tic­u­lar girl was al­ways an out­sider and ap­peared to be un­happy. But did some of the blame be­long at her for­mer class­mates feet? Pos­si­bly, but I doubt we’ll never know. Ac­cord­ing to psy­chol­o­gist Mary C Lamia in a piece for Psy­chol­ogy To­day, “It’s im­por­tant to recog­nise that re­unions are not at all about com­par­isons and judg­ments. Re­unions are about re­con­nect­ing – and con­nec­tion is what peo­ple re­ally want and need. “But for some, re­unions can evoke the emo­tional vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties you’ve buried from your ado­les­cence,” ex­plains Lamia. “The de­sire and long­ing to con­nect can be ob­scured by the feared judg­ment of oth­ers. And if you be­lieve that ev­ery­one is judg­men­tal, chances are you will be de­fen­sively throw­ing up your own bar­ri­ers.” For Michelle O’Brien, school re­unions are joyful events and a re­flec­tion of a happy child­hood and a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence at the all-girls school she at­tended. “I’ve been to all the or­gan­ised class re­unions and have loved them all,” says O’Brien. “But I would have to say; they get more in­ter­est­ing as the years go by. The first re­union was all about who you were go­ing out with and what you were do­ing for work, it was all pretty su­per­fi­cial stuff and I guess we were all show­ing off a bit.

“The next few re­unions were all about your chil­dren and things like that, we were still es­sen­tially com­par­ing our lives. But, by the 20-year re­union, most of us had en­coun­tered some loss or life-chang­ing event. Many of us had di­vorced or lost a par­ent and sadly, some of our class­mates had died. “And by the 30th re­union, I no­ticed we were all so much more com­fort­able in our own skins. It was just won­der­ful to see each other and there was gen­uine con­nec­tion. All of us had been through some real ups and downs and some real life ex­pe­ri­ences that we could re­late to. And those years and life ex­pe­ri­ences I think, made all of us that much more com­pas­sion­ate and sup­port­ive of each other.”

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

◗ Some peo­ple find high school re­unions plea­sur­able while oth­ers would not dream of at­tend­ing one.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

LEFT: Louise Heather and Clare Walker at their 10-year school re­union. CEN­TRE: The Class of ’77, Kin­cop­pal Rose Bay. RIGHT: Best friends for­ever class­mates Sharon Sandy, Lisa Doust and Michelle Rowe.

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