18 June, 2006

Class dismissed

The names of a couple of old school friends of mine have recently resurfaced online, together with photos of - presumably - how they look now.

One appears to be doing very well for herself as a teacher of Italian at Warwick University, the back of whose 18-year-old head can be evindenced here. The other seems to have set himself as a freelance theatre director in London, churning out various self-conscious "alternative" productions and sporting a huge bushy beard, besides continuing to awkwardly sport the same name as my boss.

He now looks far older than her, though they hail both from the same year. My school year, that is.

"They're both from the same year". It's a phrase that actually makes no sense whatsoever, meaning precious little in or out of context. Yet it was, or variations on it were, a calling card back at school and as much a badge of association and identity as anything else.

My year. The class of '94, as they'd call it, with far more empiricism but far less romanticism, in America.

I often wonder what I'd do were I invited to a reunion of my school year. This rash assumption presupposes I would be considered worthwhile enough to be invited in the first place, but supposing I were, would I take the plunge into such convivial yet murky waters of nostalgia and companionship?

In short: absolutely not. In fact, I would dread such an occasion and go to great lengths not to attend rather than find myself being coralled into showing up and rubbing shoulders with my erstwhile contemporaries.

Not that I wouldn't be interested to see some of them again - far from it. But not in that setting. Not under some ghastly semi-official auspices. And not with everybody else there. Not with people I would feel distinctly uneasy at coming face to face with after 12 years.

I know, I just know, that the majority of people attending such an event would have achieved far far more than I have since 1994 and that as such my accomplishments would but pale into offensive insignificance. I would not be able to handle the inevitable rating and comparing of histories and highlights, the expectation of having made something of your life by now, the accumulation of materials and experiences to back that up, and the implication that everything is all right with the world.

Part of me also doesn't want to be reminded of the "me" back then. I'm quite content to have faded out of 90% of the lives of people I used to see day in day out at school. Having to meet them again after all this time presupposes some common ground and shared interest, wheras the only thing I had in common with all of them at the end of the day was that we went to the same school. Take that away and, well, as proved to be the unhappy case, there was little reason to socialise and keep in touch - as I found out, painfully, throughout my time at university.

Maybe, in ten years time or so, I shall feel very differently. I hope so. At the moment, however, I don't have the strength, or the guts, or the nerve, or the presence of mind, to hold my own in a room full of people I last saw when I was 18. It's easier, more cowardly, to watch from afar, which is why the internet is such a godsend when it comes to being seen and not seen. Plus it means I can take an interest in other people's lives without being so presumptuous as to think they would still have an interest in mine.

In short: I would love to go...but I never will.


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