My batch from secondary school decided to have its 30-year reunion last weekend. Yes, you read that right — 30 years. When I received the reunion invite, I was a bit shocked as I suddenly realised it had been that long since I left secondary school. I remember looking up and mouthing the words “Thirty freakin’ years!”.
That initial feeling of shock subsided quickly, overcame by a sudden surge of pure excitement. Of course, I was excited. I haven’t seen many of my secondary schoolmates for a very long time — some for the entire 30 years since we left school.
I read the agenda. It said “games, tahlil, dinner, karaoke”. I checked out the reunion location online. It was at some far-off, without reception or WiFi tempat-jin-bertendang (isolated location) resort in Hulu Langat. I found out we were going to have roast lamb.
It sounded like it was going to be a lot of fun and laughter, hanging out with friends I spent five years at a boarding school called SM Sains Selangor (SMSS).
So, I was excitedly counting down the days to the reunion. Like a giggly teenager I prepared early, clearing my schedule for that weekend, checking if I had timed my haircut right, even putting aside carefully chosen T-shirts and jeans, too, ahem, look “cool” and all.
However, when I arrived at the venue, it was with some trepidation that I started walking into the resort.
I don’t know why but all of a sudden, I was nervous and hesitant. I checked myself. Hair alright? No holes in my clothes? Oh God, what if they forced me to sing at the karaoke session? What if they have changed and I don’t know them anymore? It HAS been 30 years and people change.
Suddenly, it felt exactly like when I first walked into SMSS as a scared little Form One boy that January in 1982. Nervous. Shy. Not sure what to expect. Worried I would make a fool of myself trying to fit in with a bunch of strangers.
Feelings of anxiety suddenly came over me and I felt myself dragging my feet. As I meandered around trying to psych myself up, I turned a corner and saw familiar faces.
These familiar faces looked at me and smiled, the same smiles that I remember from so long ago.
All feelings of anxiety dissipated into thin air. Looking at my old friends, I suddenly felt like I had come home.
We greeted each other warmly and started talking like we had never parted. It felt both new and familiar.
Reunions happen all the time. But there is something special about reuniting with people you grew up with in your formative teenage years, and even more special when you actually lived together in a boarding school.
We knew a lot about each other, being stuck with each other day and night. We knew the names of everyone’s parents and even the names of some grandparents!
Distant and forgotten memories, including our antics in class and the dorms, the midnight escapades to the nearby town, bathing using the biology pool when there was no water came rushing back into my consciousness. It was as if I had never left school.
I looked at my friends closely. All of us went on our different paths after secondary school. We have had varying degrees of success and tragedy.
We survived what life has thrown at us and soldiered on, aged and weathered after many years.
But no matter where we are in our current life trajectory, we had our start at the same place. We grew up together and knew each other before we reached adulthood.
Any masks that we wore were simply stripped away at the reunion, rendered useless in front of friends who know who we really are.
Sitting there that night, listening to old stories and laughing at wonderful memories, I realised I wasn’t just among friends. I was among family. I was surrounded by love. And, family and love make life worth living.
At the end of the night, I said goodbye to everyone and hoped I would be able to meet them again soon.
I remember looking at them as I was saying my farewells, not knowing whether that was going to be the last time I would see some of them. Or, if that was the last time they would see me.
I thank God for my friends. I thank God I got to meet them. And, I thank God I escaped singing karaoke.
Ahmad Izham Omar is chief executive officer of Primeworks Studio, Media Prima Berhad. He works in the production of TV, film and music content and gets panicky trying to figure out his next tweet.