I did it - I went to my 20 year highschool reunion.
I didn't go to the 10 year reunion, as I'd just met Richard, and I was living in Canberra, he was living in Finley, and the reunion was in Taree. Love of your life versus awkward chit chat? Of course, I took off to Finley and spent the weekend in a love haze.
This one was different, though, 20 years had gone by. I got an invitation to the Facebook group last year, and was undecided whether I'd go.... my best friend Jennie was moving back to Wingham some time soon, so I knew that we could hang out. I'd also reconnected with a lovely girl called Shauna, who I was never friends with in school (we both thought the other hated us!) but have become firm friends with her over shared experiences and thoughts on Facey. I was hoping that Kristy, Liz, Renae and Richard M would come, as they were part of our posse in Year 11 and 12, but the distance was too great for them. There were lots of lovely people there that it was great to see.
It's hard for me to talk about my schooling without mentioning that I was seriously depressed and anxious for a lot of it. I suffered terribly from low self esteem, and I didn't know who I was, or who I wanted to be. The most I thought I could hope for was to be a housewife - I knew how to do housework and I felt sure that I couldn't fail at that. I was terrified of trying new things, terrified of seeming silly and wrong, terrified of myself and sure that other people had the answers that I was lacking.
I wouldn't say that I took part in much of my schooling - I'd say that I was an observer. I have the keenest memories of all the events that happened in school, probably because I was so aware of others and watching what they did. I thought other people had the answers, and watched how they interacted and talked and joked. If my friends were away, it wasn't uncommon for me to spend the entire day not talking to anyone. Yet, the moment that I came home from school, I'd come alive, I'd start performing. I'd laugh and joke and talk and express. I had so, so many feelings and thoughts, but I somehow thought that they were too intense and too much to share with other people. I was furiously angry at popular people, thought they were sheep, and clung to disdain of those who dared to be happy.
I can't imagine why I didn't get invited to more parties.
In the 20 years since then, I've grown into myself. I've become more me and less me at the same time. I'm aware of my boundaries and my limits. That is such a good and healthy thing. The times when I say "no, I'm sorry, I need help", empower both me and the person I am asking for help. I alone can do it, but I don't have to do it alone. There have been many many wonderful and amazing people who have shared my journey of self discovery and my quest for the prize of contentment.
I was surprised when people recognised me at the reunion, because the girl that I was at that school is someone who I don't feel like. Apart from the red hair, brown eyes and tall frame, I feel like I have little in common with her.
She agonised over what she said - I mostly let it go.
She was terrified of what people thought of her - I realise that I can't control what others think
She was angry at the cards fate had dealt - I realise that gratitude and acceptance are the only things I need to make sense of life
She didn't know who she was, but was sure it was wrong - I know exactly who I am, and I know that I am enough.
She hated people because she hated herself - I love people today (imperfectly), because I love and cherish myself.
She thought life wasn't fair - I know that life is what you make of the things that happen.
She hated Taree because coming there had ruined her life - I saw that Taree is a beautiful town, with beaches and lush green valleys. I saw that the sadness that was in me was what had ruined my outlook.
I know I've still got a long way to go, but just for today, I am happy in the journey, and contented in who and where I am.
There is a passage in one of my favourite books, where it says "We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it" - and that's exactly how I felt. No, I didn't feel the need to stick around. It was nice to see people and hear some stories of what they were up to..but there were no lightning bolt moments that resolved any deep seated issues. I realised that, as always, the answer is not in other people. It never is. Other people don't have my answers. My answers come from deep with in me, in a higher consciousness that I choose to call God. I carry this with me at all times, and wherever I go...there I am. And I like that.