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.

5 thoughts on “The reality of nostalgia and memories

  1. I so love this piece of writing Diane. It brought back such memories. For me too, school was a welcome escape from a unhappy severely dysfunctional home life and the teachers were so good to me and I loved really school and my friends, so much so that I often didn’t want to go home when the bell rang, but as I moved on into my working life I did lose touch with them as my directions seems so completely different to theirs and I connected better with my new working friends. My brothers were quite different though and still have many of their school friends now that they share a wonderful bond with, so I wonder…did I not make the effort? Or were we all just so different that our friendships just didn’t transfer over in to our adult lives?

    1. It seems we will have lots to talk about when we meet, Mary! I seem to be better at collecting people than maintaining friendships (although I do like people and enjoy their company) and I blame my upbringing to a certain extent. I have learned (over time) that the only person you can truly rely on is yourself. Even the best of friends can never really totally be there for you.

  2. Like you, I have little passion for indulging in nostalgia. In fact, one of the reasons I left Facebook years ago, was the misplaced (and downright icky) sentimentalism that seemed to fuel the site.

    Of course, trying to relight past relationships has no allure for me because, unlike yourself, I didn’t have a good time at school. Safe is not a word I use to describe any aspect my school experience.

    1. When I was a teacher, I was appalled at how awful school could be for students. From the expectations of parents, the demands of the curriculum to the cruelty of other students, it turned survival into an art form. I am sorry your experience was unhappy, Fernando. It seems though, that you have prevailed, which is always inspiring. And the best revenge 😀

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