The reality of nostalgia and memories
I caught up with an old school chum the other day. He was someone I hadn’t seen for over 30 years and he contacted me via Facebook. While he has had his fair share of trials and tribulations, as we all have to greater or lesser degree, it occurred to me what a huge market nostalgia is. Facebook works because we are curious about people from our past, whether they be old school chums, past work colleagues, or ex-partners. We want to see what happened to the people who were in our lives. Have they fared better or worse than us? Who has put on weight, lost hair, or ended up divorced? Who ran off with the circus, became a CEO, or worst of all, just didn’t make it?
I was happy at school. It was a safe place for me; an antithesis of my home life. I was surrounded by wonderful teachers, and students who generally had a live and let live attitude to things. We had quite a few boys (and girls) who struggled with their sexuality, and I don’t remember it being a huge deal. We had a few Aboriginal students at the school (and yes, Stan Williams, I still have a crush on you some 30 years later. That skin. That face.That hair... ). And we might have had a few undesirables who made the girls (and probably some boys) swoon, but they weren’t “bad”. Just disruptive.
I’m sure not everyone had as happy a time, though. I’m sure there was a darkness at school that I didn’t notice because I wasn’t caught in its shadow. School – for me, anyway – was a bright light, a life buoy, in an otherwise violent, unpredictable world. I was good at school – I was smart, sporty and arty – so I found it easy to navigate. I knew what I needed to do to be successful in this environment.
But I didn’t go to a recent school reunion. And the reasons are simple: I really only spent five years of my life with my old school chums, and while I have caught up with some over the years (the pull of curiosity is difficult to resist), there is not one person I could call a friend. Not really. There is not one person from school who would pass the 2 a.m. test if I had a crisis. And to be honest, I wouldn’t get up at 2 a.m. for one of them either. Curiosity and common ties to the past should never be confused with caring. For me, the simplistic – even necessary – friendships of childhood have not continued into adulthood, with all its inherent complications.
I doubt that I will ever see most of my old school chums again, apart from exchanging Facebook pleasantries and executing some mild stalking activity. Occasionally, there might be a catch-up coffee, or a drink. And while I wish them well, school chums now occupy a compartment in my brain entitled “Nostalgia”; I trot the memories out every now and then, dust them off, and smile fondly at them, but am just as happy to file them back again. Sometimes bathing in the glow of memories is a whole lot better than the stark reality of the here and now.
And that even includes you, Stan Williams.