I got invited to a school reunion this week. I couldn’t think of anything worse that I could be “invited” to if I’m honest. I hated school.
Actually, that’s not strictly true. School was fine, I learned a lot there and most of my teachers were fine. I came out with grades that got me to university which in turn got me a job I enjoy and funds a life I love. So school itself did the job it was there to do.
But the environment of school wasn’t something I enjoyed at all, and that has to come down to the people I was at school with. They weren’t all bad of course, far from it, but you could basically put them into one of five categories.
Category One – Friends
I wasn’t a loner at school, but I wasn’t far off. From time to time, I spent time on my own at breaks. More often though, at any one time I had a small group of friends that I was close to, and they were great. But I was a bit of a dick at times as a kid (weren’t we all) and so I fell out with some, made up with others, and had all the usual dramas you had as a kid.
This category is obviously the best one because you choose your friends and at some point in time I have happy memories of them all. Those I was friends with when I left school almost all fell by the wayside as I moved away from spending all my time in the village I grew up in to spending a lot of time in Glasgow at university, before finally moving away from the village altogether. I still have occasional contact with people I was friends with at school, but not much. I’d wouldn’t mind catching up with them, but to be honest the group is so small I could do that without the need for a full school reunion. And perhaps crucially, I wouldn’t really expect any of them to go to a school reunion anyway.
Category Two – Enemies
I was often bullied at school, for a variety of reasons. I wasn’t born in the village, I moved there from Glasgow when I was three years old. I have a “funny” name. I was a smart kid, which in itself gets you beat up without getting moved up a year and therefore being a year younger than everyone else. I went to a non-denominational school so I was a Celtic fan surrounded by Rangers fans for most of the day. I’m a Star Trek fan, so that got used against me from time to time as well. Take your pick, they certainly did. And when they didn’t fancy any of them, they’d make stuff up and use that as well.
There are certain names and faces that will forever be etched into my brain. People who seemed to go out of their way to make my life miserable as a kid. I would actively avoid these people today if I was to find myself in the same room as them. I would hope they’ve long since grown up, but even if they have I have absolutely no interest in finding out how they’re doing now.
Category Three – Invisibles
The bulk of people I was at school with were people I barely interacted with. That’s fair enough, I have no problem with them. In fact, I have a few of them on Facebook and I’ve probably interacted with them more since leaving school. That’s pretty much how the school reunion invite happened actually. These people didn’t bother about me, I didn’t bother about them, and we all got on with school without really doing anything of note for or against each other. They might know my name, I might know their name, but ultimately we weren’t fussed about each other back then. Although having them on Facebook is nice, I wouldn’t say they were people I’d go out of my way to go and see. I’m not sure what I’d talk to them about.
“Mind that time at school where xxx happened?”
Category Four – Sheep
The bullies always seem to have hangers on. A support group who helped reinforce their dickish behaviour. People who might even join in because they thought it made them cool. It probably did at that age, which is a sad fact of life. These people were rarely isolated from their network of friends – or their ring leader – but when they were they would usually slip into the third category and disappear from my radar. Or at the very least I’d be cautious around them rather than actively trying to avoid them in case I said or did something that was later fed back to their “boss”. Other than hoping that these people have stopped being sheep before life walks all over them, I have little or no interest in these people. And even less to talk to them about than the category threes.
Category Five – Guilt
This probably flies in the face of what I’ve said under categories two and four, because there was one occasion where I was on the other side of the fence. One occasion where I was the one doing the teasing and the bullying.
There was one girl at school who saw me enter category four because this poor girl was somehow perceived to be further down the school environment foodchain than me. She was being picked on anyway so I joined in, because then I could be the one with the sheep-mentality and maybe – just maybe – I could work my way up the foodchain. Baaaaa.
I’m not perfect, I had my own disgusting attitude at school from time to time as I tried to find a way to fit in. This method seemed to work for others, so why wouldn’t it work for me?
Well it didn’t work of course, and I’m glad about that because if it had worked I’d probably have got worse. Fortunately there was only really this one girl who suffered at my hands.
I despise this aspect of my past. I hate how I treated her, and knowing that it was really only name calling and “nothing worse” doesn’t make it any better. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me? Not physically no. Mentally they’ll leave scars.
What makes it even worse is she was actually a really nice girl! I know this because I occasionally got paired with her in classes like Home Economics and was forced to work with her because you didn’t get to pick pairs. I’m actually glad I had to work with her, at least that way I have some kind of memory of how she really was rather than the nonsense that was made up about her and I joined in with.
I’ll admit that I’d still hate how I treated her even if she wasn’t that nice girl, but the fact that she really didn’t deserve anything she put up with makes it all the worse.
I’d love to speak to her for just five minutes. Five minutes so I could profusely apologise to her for making her time at school more difficult than it needed to be.
I wouldn’t expect her to accept that apology. If anything she’d probably think the same as me. Why on Earth would she want to interact with people who tried to make such a significant period of her life a misery? Only she knows whether we succeeded or not. Then again, maybe she’s got over it better than I have.
I hope she’s went on to be really successful in life, just to spite every single one of us who annoyed her at school. I know how bad it made me feel when I was on that end of it, which is why I really should have known better than to turn it on someone else. But I did it, and I’m truly sorry for that.
I’ve previously apologised for a few other dick moves in my past, but this one probably eats away at me more than most because this was probably the worst. In this instance I reckon I deserve it.
As for the reunion – you can see now why it just doesn’t interest me. The only people I’d want to speak to probably wouldn’t be there – whether that’s friends to catch up with or someone I owe an apology.
So if you ask me, for the most part, school is best left in the past. I’ve moved on from there (more or less) and life is so much better now. School played its part in getting to this point, but that part is done.
Of course, while I can’t say I worry about this aspect of my life too much (except enough to blog about it apparently), there is an obvious exception coming in the next few years. I just hope that my own son has it easier than I did when it’s his turn to go to school.
But like so many other things in his life, that’s not something I can control. I can only guide him, hope for the best, and support him when he needs it.