When we finished school in 1993, nobody in Ireland had ever queued overnight to buy a house from the plans, Anglo was just another fairly innocuous bank, and Justin Bieber hadn’t been born yet.
We said good-bye to one another without the benefit of mobile phone numbers or email addresses to swap, and with no Facebook to offer a means of staying in touch.
But Facebook came good for us two decades later, bringing forty of us together last night for a school reunion.
And it was great. Really, really great.
Most of us go to an event like this with some trepidation, some nervousness, some curiosity and, let’s face it, a mental preparedness to answer questions – to answer the inevitable “so what do you do?”
And there’s nothing wrong with that question – it probably doesn’t make sense to organise a twenty-year reunion and then talk about the what a hot summer it was and whether or not opaque-tights season is back.
But for many of us, there was some degree of nervousness, albeit outweighed by a wish to be there, the latter driving us to turn up.
Walking purposefully up the steps to the reserved area, in a way that belied the butterflies I was feeling, I faltered for a moment when I saw a sea of faces, some familiar, some not immediately so.
Then as friends greeted friends, I ended up momentarily at the edge of the room, looking at other peoples’ backs.
I teetered on the edge, figuratively and literally, the stairs behind me inviting a retreat. But of course I stayed, and seconds later, joined the nearest excited group to start the first exchange of catch-up-chat.
It was initially a challenge to put a name to every face, but time and beer did their work, and an hour later, it seemed like everyone had morphed into the seventeen-year-old version of themselves. Suddenly it seemed impossible that just a short time earlier anyone had been unrecognisable.
And we all looked great! Really great.
Of course, we’re coming from a low base – the last time many of us saw one another, we were wearing ill-fitting grey skirts, with hair tied up in stylish quiffs (yes indeed), and with skin sporting a mix of teenage spots and cheap makeup (sorry, to be fair, I can only speak about myself here)
Our 1990’s out-of-school uniform of paisley shirts and Dr Martens, worn enthusiastically to Wesley disco, had now been replaced by an array of gorgeous dresses, smart blazers and fitted tops, skinny jeans and high heels, glossy hair (not a quiff in sight) and grown-up makeup.
|disco uniform (image credit Etsy.com)|
And the chat! We could have keep going all night (and some did) – endless memories and stories to uncover and regale and retell.
Memories of school, tales of adventures and travels in the intervening years, information about current locations and families, pictures of kids, career changes, plans for the future.
We had so much in common, which of course breeds conversation. And as a good friend of mine observed, this commonality was not so much because we went to the same school, but that we’re all at a similar stage of life now.
Many of us muddling through life with small children, many juggling career and childcare, and many starting a second career – having moved into something they’ve always wanted to do.
And the confidence – the room was brimming with confident smiles – good confidence – not cockiness, not competitiveness, not one upmanship.
Happy, confident girls (maybe in our late thirties we have to move on and say “women” now)
Women who are happy and secure in themselves; who have reached a point in life where small things don’t matter anymore.
Women who don’t spend time worrying about what others think (well not as much as we did as teens or in our twenties).
Women who ask the “so what do you do?” question, not to compare or benchmark, but out of genuine interest and a desire to reconnect.
Happy in our skins, as they say.
I don’t know where my daughters will go to school, but I’d like to think that in thirty years they could be at a reunion like this.
And in the meantime, I hope that paisley shirts and Dr Martens will come back into fashion – at least for wearing to Wesley.
|image credit stylebubble.co.uk|