Monday, 21 December 2009

Reunion

A few years ago I was persuaded to go to a reunion at my university (UEA). It was for alumni that had started their undergrad degree in the 80s. I remember wondering at the time if a reunion was one of those things that sounded pleasant enough in theory but in reality would be awful. I was convinced attendance would be fun by posse of Norwich residing UEA graduates that I already knew, so in spite of my reservations I figured it would be just like a night out with friends - if nothing else. How wrong I was. I think the whole thing disturbed me considerably!

When I arrived it was apparent that if anyone I knew from my university days was there - I certainly wasn't recognising them. Some people had come for the whole weekend and a very well-planned agenda took them to old haunts and let them re-enjoy the delights of Norwich. I (and my friends) had just dipped into a meal in the campus canteen(!) and an 80s disco on the Saturday evening.

The meal was pleasant enough (mostly an opportunity to reminisce about institutionalised food) and I totally forgot that I was part of a reunion but the disco afterwards was when the serious unsettling occurred. Sitting in what had been a bar we had spent our early adulthood buying cheap beers and being rowdy in, we found ourselves strangely surrounded by middle-aged people. It was a scary and stark reminder that time certainly did not stand still and worse, all that youthful rebellion, all those dreams and ambitions and that forceful passion had sold out to everything you could never have persuaded our youthful selves we would ever be part of. We were middle class, we were name dropping and we were by comparison, considerably staid.

I think the most disturbing vision I had all night was of a woman in her late forties, with long grey hair dancing to 'The Clash' in a floral skirt. That just was not right and it's incongruence was an undeniable display that represented what had happened to us all. I know getting older and developing slightly more conservative outlooks was inevitable but we were in the actual place where we once truly believed it would never be inevitable! It was like a big, 'I told you so.'

Of course we also spent time reminiscing. We all had stories about the place that united us all in the first place - when we were YOUNG - but sharing the stories in established adulthood, I felt like we were in danger of damaging the memories of those magical days from the past. I wanted to leave those memories untampered - actually undertaken by people in their late teens and early twenties, not recounted by people in their forties with a distinct tone of disbelief!

So actually with the wisdom that I developed from this experience, I don't think a reunion sounds good even in theory.

However, a little alcohol and 'connection' with some music from the 80s, meant I arrived on the front cover of the next alumni Magazine: Ziggurat. Clearly I'm good at overcoming challenging and disconcerting circumstances - as there's little evidence of the trauma I had been experiencing here!

7 comments:

  1. Oh my god, you totally look like me in that picture (on a good day!). Reunions are bad news man. The very idea sends shivers down my spine. It is always best to leave good memories alone. I have buggered up a few times by revisiting places that I had a great time and messing up all the memories by being a middle-aged woman in a place where I no longer had a wild and carefree life - holiday with Jim to Japan ten years ago, weekend in Aberdeen with Donna couple of years ago and Istanbul this year to some extent...couldn't beat the Molly and Claire do Istanbul trip! xxx

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  2. That picture... have you ever seen "Carrie"? Or maybe it's just my monitor playing tricks.

    I've never been to a school or uni reunion but when I've contemplated the prospect it plays out much as you describe. The closest I got was the 50th birthday of a guy I'd been in a band with in the 80s. I hadn't seen him or the other band members for twenty years and it was the same thing: looking around the room thinking 'is that him? or is it him?' and so on. The strangest thing was the birthday boy couldn't remember me at all although we'd got on well two decades previously. Even after another band member reintroduced us I'd keep catch him looking at me quizzically, searching for a neural connection that may well have disappeared in a puff of white powder back in the Thatcher era.

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  3. Yeah I don't do reunions for the same reason. Far too depressing. All those people for whom the world was their oyster. Hmmmmmmmmm

    Dead poets and Carpe diem, anyone?

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  4. i love reunions.
    well i've not really been to that many but i LIKE the idea of 'em.
    i think.

    that picture of YOU is hilarious.
    love it
    ;-)

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  5. Hey, do you do requests?!! Like, please write about the time when.../your thoughts on... ??? xxx

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  6. I bet you lot still made a mess

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