Last year I had a reunion with my classmates when I was on the second grade of high school from 1998 to 1999. Some of us became classmates again on our third and final year, and some others even went to the same universities afterwards. The reunion was preceded by, of course, the forming of Whatsapp group, as it is very common in Indonesia. The conversations in the group itself were totally random, covering many topics, and if I might say, fun. The interaction by texts was somehow needed to confirm that we’re still in the same wave length, or not. Could we still converse about something, or would there be an awkward silence creeping in every turn?
We met sometime in August, 2016 in Bandung at a friend’s house. Of all memories I had in high school, the memories I had with those people were the strongest. I had suspected that I might have forgotten almost everything about those days on the second floor of the new school building, but I hadn’t. I still remembered well the names of my former classmates, the hearsays, the gossips, the truths, and pretty much everything circulating in our classroom. After the small reunion, the Whatsapp group had become awfully quiet. Was it because we saw the reunion as a means to quench our thirst for “good, old time”, for youth, for some reminiscence of how life was before we took on more and more responsibilities each day; and after we did meet we said to ourselves that it was good enough but nothing more could be done from there? I really wonder.
Yesterday I had another reunion with my classmates from university. Unlike the classmates in high school which were rotated every year, these people had stayed with me for three years from 2000 to 2003. I went for an exchange program in Tokyo from 2003 to 2004 and came back for my final year from 2004 to 2005, completely missing out the only chance to experience the last year with them. As I looked at one of the souvenirs for the reunion and saw that the picture on the E-toll card was taken during my absence, I suspected that if I came to the event, the reminiscences and the rewinding of the collective memories would be excluding me. It was indeed true.
I had suspected myself to be bitter or sad about it, but the fact was I didn’t feel any of those emotions. What I felt was a mere curiosity and a simple delight that these classmates really did have one of the best times in their lives, that the friendships had deepened along the way as they strove to pursue good grades and the possibility to graduate on time, if not earlier than schedule, and that the bond was strong enough to call for a reunion almost two decades after they all first met. I was happy to see all those memorable and exciting moments they experienced through the old pictures and videos shown during the event, and I felt quite funny because within 14 years I had subconsciously deleted the memories I’d ever had with or about them. Blame it on the age and the giving birth factors (some research showed that plenty of brain cells died after labor. No wonder I’m so forgetful these days!), but I embarrassingly forgot the names of a handful number of people. I didn’t remember that I was in the same sub-class with them (the whole class, consisting of 100 people, was divided into three fixed sub-classes for straight four years), I didn’t remember that I ever worked in the same groups with any of them, and I didn’t remember how the group dynamics were. I didn’t remember if I had argued or disagreed with, liked or disliked anyone. This feeling of neutrality took me by surprise, because the reunion then started to feel like an encounter with new people instead of meeting again the people I was already acquainted with or I befriended years ago.
They say that in a reunion you tend to still like the people you liked back then, and dislike the people you couldn’t stand. People, who used to work well together, will likely be able to work well now, or even better. Considering the fact that I came to this reunion with a clean slate, I found it funny that I managed to strike good, meaningful conversations with people I rarely spoke with during our three years being in the same sub-class.
That led me to another question to contemplate: what kind of person was I?
Why talking and engaging were so effortless this time compared to how they were? How had I changed; how had they changed? Many things had happened within 17 years: classes, graduation, new job, career, dating, break-up, marriage, family, children, you name it. Somewhere along the way I and they had found the common ground to make it interesting enough to interact with each other this time; it was something we didn’t have long time ago. Of course I still managed to chat freely with some people who I felt were pretty close to me (my heart became warm just at the sight of them), but the conversations with some people whom I didn’t greet perhaps more than twenty times within three years had made me feel even more joyful.
Where do we go from here?
After the common “hey, how have you been”, the next question will be: what’s next? Reminiscing the times we spent in school with people we were acquainted or are still friends with, is as wonderful as experiencing the times themselves. But after saying so much “remember what we did/remember when we were”, will we still have the drive to maintain the relationship? What will be our common ground this time after we’re not being in the same classroom, doing the group works anymore? Friendship is a vulnerable and exhausting relationship, is tested by time/distance/the absence of updates, and needs every ounce of effort from every party involved to make it worthwhile. Life happened, friendship grew cold, and getting connected again with people from my life more than 10 years ago surely had its moments. For now I’m just going to celebrate the warm feelings seeping into my heart after the reunion. Thank you for inviting me.