A late night ritual between me and my friend has become to talk on the phone while we’re both getting ready for bed. On one particular night, during our daily conversations she sarcastically asked me why I hadn’t attended our high school reunion that had taken place that night.
The sarcasm in her tone stemmed from a discussion we had had far too many times; that being, one about our shared distaste for our alma mater. Frankly speaking, I didn’t even know the event was taking place that day. I had seen photos and videos about the event on social media from my old schoolmates of course. However, even when watching them, I didn’t feel a pang of regret for not being there, the way I did the night before when I couldn’t meet my friends on account of being unwell. The ‘FOMO’ factor was completely lacking, and my friend and I began to delve into why that was.
For her, the reasons were very simple. They were centred around her reservations with the institution as a whole, which also form the foundation of our mutual distaste towards the school. Namely, she believes administrative problems and politics among faculty make it impossible for her to align with the institution anymore.
She cites glaring issues with the way the school was run. She believes the Principal, who still runs the institution today, is incompetent, as are most of the faculty. For her, this reflected in their choice of student council as well as the way they conducted their classes and their teacher-student relationships.
Additionally, she further had contentions with the immense amount of favouritism that played a major part in the running of the school. First impressions with a teacher were everything and there was a very specific type of student that was favoured and thereby exalted by the institution. That type was the studious, prim and proper student. The ‘goody two shoes’ one might say. This was the student you could never imagine breaking any rules, doing badly on any tests or engaging in any controversial activity. Moreover, these students needed to have a cult-like devotion to the school in order for them to succeed in it.
Naturally, my friend and I both have major problems with this criteria. Aside from the fact that it essentially acts as a rigged system for those devotees to succeed while brilliant minds are left in the dust due to them not fitting the ‘Mother Teresa’-like persona, it also perpetuates an archaic notion of what the ideal women should be. This can further be reflected in the age-old idea of men and their families seeking out partners that fit this mould, despite the men themselves being polar opposites of this. There’s a sick kind of irony in an all-girls institution, run predominantly by females, furthering such a damaging belief in this subtle way.
The culmination of these reasons are what have made her disrespect the institution as a whole. Taking the example of her higher education campus, she proudly says she would go to a reunion there any day. This is because for her, her university is an institution she looks up to. Her high school, however, has failed to be that because of the overflow of problems that seem even worse when you look at them years later.
Although I can respect and unequivocally agree with these reasons, my reservations for attending my high school reunion are starkly different. For me, I feel a sense of disconnect when I reflect back to my high school days. Adolescence is a difficult time for pretty much everyone, but my teenage years were particularly difficult.
Financial difficulties spilled into strained familial relations which spilled into a host of personality problems and academic issues at school. It is a well known fact that difficulties in one’s childhood or adolescent can leave deep marks well into their adulthood. When I look back at high school, I can’t help but think about how tough it was for me to maintain friendships and my academic performance, as well as adjust to living in a new country while having familial issues loom over me constantly. Although I’m lucky enough to say that this period in my life has passed, this association is certainly one of the reasons why I don’t flock to my high school reunion with as much enthusiasm as my schoolmates.
Moreover, a direct result of my timid and deeply under-confident persona meant that I never formed any meaningful relations with teachers or students. Whereas some of my schoolmates may be excited to meet their favourite faculty member, this is a sentiment I cannot relate to.
My reasons aren’t all quite dire though. I look back at my final two years at high school fondly and wholeheartedly believe that they were integral in helping me become the individual I am today. But again, my years at school were marked more so by an internal struggle rather than external achievements. Take for instance, the student council. On Instagram, I saw my old batch matches at the reunion boasting about what student council position they held during their high school years. This isn’t really a boast I would make today because I perceived these achievements very differently. Winning my house election during A levels was less so about a burning passion for my school house and more so a symbolic gesture. Fourteen year old me hardly had the confidence to answer what 2+2 was, while eighteen year old me attempted to overcome these fears in the most public manner there was, a chance that ultimately paid off. Today, I view this as personal progression rather than an external achievement for my resume.
Therefore, I view my high school years as a trying time that I was able to conquer. Almost like the ending of an uplifting movie, wrapped up perfectly with academic and extra-curricular achievements but most importantly with an improved personality, motivation and outlook of the world. I therefore don’t feel the need to re-visit this time, instead choosing to look ahead and attempt to conquer what challenges lie in my future.
Unconventional reasons, I know, but they prevented me from visiting my alma mater five years later. Perhaps in another five years, my friend and I may feel differently.
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