I’m pretty sure that whomsoever invented High School is a sick, twisted sadist.
People used to tell me constantly; “These are the best years of your life” and I remember being filled with such horror and dread about what adulthood must be like if THAT was the best life had to offer. Fortunately they were most definitely wrong, and even though life has thrown me some serious blows to the stomach at times, life has pretty much just got better and better since I escaped that ghastly reality.
I never felt accepted in high school. I loved my friends, they were good people, but I always felt like I didn’t belong. They are all still friends and still see each other all the time, but as soon as I could I disappeared from their radar. I didn’t need reminders of that time and that was all they represented to me.
It was a world of fault, of guilt. If I was picked on for being different it was my fault for being different, not their fault for being bullies. If I was in detention for not doing well on my maths homework, it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough not that they weren’t teaching me well enough. If I was laughed at for being skinny it was my fault, when I put on weight and was called fat it was my fault. When I had a boyfriend I was a slut, when I didn’t I was a prude. When I dressed to fit in with the crowd I was a sheep, when I dressed to be different I was a freak.
Seriously, high school sucks.
For a long time after, whilst my baby brother still was there, I avoided going back at all costs and when I did I literally had panic attacks. I couldn’t handle it.
So then, I hear you wonder, why did I end up going to a High School Reunion?
The Boy and his brother went to my school and they wanted to go, I was happy for The Boy to go without me but he was keen for me to come. As well as all the other fun stuff we are, he and I are wonderful friends and he said he would have more fun if I was there too. The Boy’s mother offered to babysit both children, plus their cousin Jay… she’s a brave, brave woman… and thus I found myself agreeing.
I was in a fluster. What would I wear? Who would I see? Would anyone recognise me? Would anyone want to talk to me?
“Calm down!” people kept telling me as I tried not to hyperventilate whilst clutching a glass of wine on The Boy’s mother’s sofa.
The taxi came and we headed for the pub for pre-party drinks. From the moment we got in the taxi I started to have fun. I’ve not spent a lot of time around The Boy’s middle brother and didn’t know how well we’d get on. Turns out, he rocks. Completely awesome and lovely guy.
Then in the pub I met their friends. Brilliant conversation with fantasitc people ensued.
We walked to the reunion, via the shops to pick up red bull and vodka for “school style” pre-party ninja drinks. Laughter and chatter as the cans and bottles were passed round, reliving the glory days of drinking in the park before headed to lessons with a vodka buzz.
At the party we got school photos taken, one I now have as a keyring, and we had drinks. We chatted. We danced. We laughed. I recognised nobody and nobody knew me. It was just like being at a party with some mates. Mates who accepted me for just being me. No question. No accusations not judgments, just “hey you’re you and that’s fine with us. Welcome!”
As The Boy and I left, we stopped at the burger van outside for burgers, chips and curry sauce for the walk home. I’m pretty sure that greasy, fatty deliciousness is why I didn’t wake up with a stonker of a hangover.
Had people been there who I knew it might have been a different experience, but I’ll never know. Maybe I’ll find out in a decade at the next one. But I faced it. I did it. When the invite first landed my reaction had been “Hell no not a chance”.
In ten years time I’ll be 39. Where will I be? What will I be doing? Since I left life has just got better and life continues to get better each day. If it carries on like this, rough patches that are bound to happen aside, I reckon by the next reunion I’ll be in far better shape to face it with a smile.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!