School Reunions: Do They Look Backwards or Forwards?

I’ve recently come back from a school reunion in Vienna. A reunion celebrating not just one year group, but a whole decade that is now nostalgic to those who remember it, and retro to those who weren’t even born yet. Or just being born.

Okay, so that rather dates me – but I’m being brave today, casting aside the vanity of woman! Having spent five nostalgia-packed days with colleagues from my childhood and early teens, I’ve learned one thing for certain – we’re all still young at heart! Some of us have maintained our figures, some haven’t. (I figure amongst the luckier ones, pardon the pun!) Some have maintained their hair; in the case of men, most haven’t – at least not all of it. Just little tufts here and there at the back or on the sides. Or not at all. At the other end of the hirsute scale, one or two members of said male species have grown their facial offerings into impressively long white beards rather reminiscent of Abraham. Or perhaps Moses. Some of us are happily married, some are on second marriages, some on no marriage at all; most now have grown-up children, a few late developers have children still at home, some haven’t gone down the children route … but essentially, despite the passing of the years and the accumulation of wives, husbands, families, experiences and memories, we’re all still the same people.

Being a nostalgia-addict myself, I’ve been full of deep, introspective thoughts since coming back from the reunion. Thoughts such as: did it do me any good, considering my low mood these last months? (Low mood being thanks to Errant Hubby No 2, who has been errant since last autumn) Was it worth it? All that travel, the hotel expense, the nerves about seeing people I haven’t seen in a larger number of years than I care to admit; the fear that I might be left out…? Honestly! The cringing feeling was almost like being a shy schoolgirl all over again, full of trepidation about not being ‘one of the crowd’.

You know the feeling? Hanging around nervously, smiling at half-remembered faces (or not remembered at all), praying that the waiter will soon materialise so I can order ein much-needed glass weis wein bitte; hoping someone will recognise me … and then, hey presto! – the reconnecting and remembering began! One or two yearbooks were brought out, bodies crowded round the sanctified pages, fingers pointed out much-younger versions of themselves and others … polite greetings led to questions, to proddings down memory lane – and all of it with the united aim of reconnecting and remembering. I needn’t have feared! By later in the evening, glasses were clinking and conversations brimming.

What class were you in? Oh, right, so you must know my younger sister/brother … Do you remember that cool teacher who had an affair with … Never! He didn’t, did he? With HER? OMG! So you were in elementary when I was in High School? – that’s why I can’t recall you, but hey, you’re looking great! Hey, so are you!

Yes, even mild flirtations were soon bubbling away, together with the sparkling Viennese wine (actually, it wasn’t sparkling, but it was bloody good), happily making us believe we were still hormonal teenagers at school. And btw, I remember another reunion, quite a while back, when one attendee arrived with her husband, and left, several days later, with … But no. I’m not going to indulge in blogger-gossip. Besides, everything is allowed at reunions. That is to say, practically everything is allowed at reunions. And besides again, nothing nearly so exciting happened at this one. At least not to my knowledge …

So, to get back to my original title-point: do school reunions look backwards or forwards? Well, as they’re mostly about indulging in memories, I’d definitely say backwards. But as they’re also about reconnecting and establishing renewed friendships, even bonding with people you weren’t friends with before, then I’d say they look forwards. Right? So the correct answer is: reunions look both backwards and forwards, duh!

Now I come to think of it, isn’t that what life’s all about? Looking backwards and forwards? So do NOT listen to these do-gooders who tell you only to look forwards, not to dwell on the past, that such habits are unhealthy, that only the Now and the Future count, blah blah blah. I don’t believe them. And I’m sure, at rock bottom, they don’t really believe in their own advice. I mean, who are we without our pasts, warts an’ all? The past, and our acceptance of it, even the painful memories that it comes with (I should know), is all part of making us who we are. Yes, we gradually change on life’s journey, and yes, we should constantly be trying to make ourselves better, trying to aim towards a worthier future. But it’s the past, our very own personalised past, that helps us achieve those changes. That helps us develop and improve ourselves. Rather like the way you learned from your mistakes back at school. All that homework, all those projects, tests, exams – all pushing you forwards bit by bit. Dragging and moulding your past into your present, and reaching towards a future as lofty as Stephansdom Cathedral in Vienna!

So I say to the Past, thank you for having me, and to the Future, Here I come, together with all my checked-in baggage!

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