Back to school … too late to cancel?

September 27, 2016

We quickly began to relax, laugh and acknowledge we were a 'bit stuck' on who we were. Isn't this what the night was supposed to be about anyway?

You know the feeling when you have a function to attend and as you begin to dress you are still uncertain if you want to go but are too far committed to cancel?  I was like this when I decided to attend my secondary school centenary celebrations at Burnie High School, Tasmania.

A wonderful centenary celebration
A wonderful centenary celebration

I had previously attended a fun school reunion five years earlier, but this was different – it was hundreds of past school students attending, some whom would be in their eighties. I wondered if it would be worth my while travelling interstate and if I would know many old students.

The night before

I decided to fly in the night before the formal event and early enough to catch-up with a few of my old class mates.

I loved seeing the girls, some of which I have maintained contact since school.  Apart from the laughter, they helped me out on the recall factor. They would whisper in my ear as a reminder about who someone was, who they married, if still married and the other bits of gossip we don’t write about.

I laughed so much over some of the comments by my old girl friends that my face hurt. It was just like the days back at school. I had forgotten how cheeky they were.

OMG who are you?

Welcomed by current students
Welcomed by current students

If I was honest with myself the main reason I was reluctant to attend the celebrations was the difficulty of recognising people. I have lived interstate for more than 30 years and my concern was the ‘OMG who are you’ feeling every time I met someone, the uncertainty and being embarrassed.

Will I know them and will I offend them? Particularly if they know my name and recognise me. Let’s face it, the majority of us don’t look the same since school.

For men there is hair loss – bald men look different. Unless they are genetically blessed with hair as they age then it comes down to whether they have coloured their hair. And let’s not get into the men’s long nourished pregnancy pot which appears to be more common than not (apologies to the men who read this article and don’t have a pot stomach).

The women are not as difficult to recognise as we are just older. Women can do wonders with hair and fashionable clothes, enhancing our youthfulness and covering the fat. Having said this, we still have issues as our skin changes, the face drops and we acquire a different shape. Oh, the joys of aging.

Consequently at a school reunion when confronted with a “Hi” from a maybe familiar face, do you stare them in the eye and go into a high-speed panic recall or do you attempt to discreetly read their name tag, hoping the print is big enough to read without glasses?

Phew, we all felt the same way

Well guess what, we were all in the same boat and it didn’t take long for any of us to realise this.

We quickly began to relax, laugh and acknowledge we were a ‘bit stuck’ on who we were. Isn’t this what the night was supposed to be about anyway?

Everyone helped each other out with names and the class we were in, and all the anguish over whether to attend was wasted energy.

My sister and I made the social pages!
My sister and I made the social pages!

The whole night was a highlight with mixed emotions and appreciation to all who had obviously put in a massive amount of effort to achieve the desired outcome. Our original school song was sung by one of our favourite teachers, now in her eighties.

Present students spoke, former students with international and local acclaim told great stories, hundreds of old photos flashed up on the large screens all night, food was constantly served by students, a dedicated memory lane with the old school magazines was on display, and of course there was the constant exchange of numbers and selfies. My sister and I even made the social pages in the local newspaper.

I made the right decision for me

Since the reunion I have run into people who didn’t attend purely for the same reasons I had considered. On hearing my comments they nodded in agreement they should have taken the risk and made the effort.

The positives of attending a school centenary celebration certainly outweighed any negatives. Here’s my take:

My beautiful and well-equipped old school
My beautiful and well-equipped old school


  • An opportunity to attend a 100 years celebration is rare;
  • Realisation on how lucky I was to receive a wonderful education;
  • Great memories and a reminder of the advanced school facilities available for the time;
  • Meetings teachers from an adult perspective and who were complimentary;
  • I saw the human side in my teachers, too young to realise at the time – we could laugh together;
  • Meeting today’s students and seeing how well presented they are and proud of their school;
  • Hearing success stories from former students;
  • Singing our school song – I wanted to cry;
  • Reminiscing on things we students used to get up to;
  • Lots of laughter … I didn’t want the night to end;
  • Reconnecting with fellow students; and,
  • Rediscovering the bonds.


  • Difficult to find all the students. I wonder how many more past students knew about the event who were not there;
  • I would have liked to have heard more success stories by former students, particularly from the older generation; and,
  • Impossible to say goodbye to everyone, some I may never see again.

Just do it

So, if you ever have a school celebration or reunion I recommend you attend. Keep an open mind as your perception may not be bad as you think and if you don’t recognise people, acknowledge the feeling is mutual. Go on, be courageous and get out there.

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