Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Class Reunion

"They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and despise a fool
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules

[...]

When they've tortured and scared you for 20 odd years
then they expect you to pick a career
When you can't really function, you're so full of fear"

- John Lennon: 'Working Class Hero'


Last Saturday I had a class reunion meeting with the people I spent nine years of my formative years with, at the Haihara Primary School and at the Kaukajärvi Upper Level Comperehensive School (Junior High School); both schools adjunct in the same building smack in the middle of Kaukajärvi, a suburb of Tampere where I grew up. Nine years, from the age of seven to that of fifteen. You can guess for me this meeting was an emotionally charged one, though I managed to keep it at bay, under my (more or less) businesslike shell.

To be honest, back in the time when it all ended after nine years of basic schooling and three additional years at the Hervanta High School, I was more than happy to get out of the grindmill. And the period I spent later on at the university was basically nothing more than returning to school: don't think for yourself, follow orders, submit to the self-serving idiots who run the system, be nothing. I bless every day out of the school, out of any sort of educational system.

That early phase of life was for me filled with shame, confusion, ignorance, loneliness; the feelings of being constantly misunderstood, miscast, mistreated. And now I was back with these people I shared the awkward years with. The same people who used to mock me and give me a hard time, but whom I also managed to treat like a bastard from time to time. Children can be cruel to each other since they're not yet hindered by the constraints of having been conditioned into the rules of the so called civilization; into socialization and other crap like that. In other words, children have not yet learned how to mask their despisal and scorn under the safe armour of politeness and superficial courtesy like adults do.

Not to talk about the teachers. I can't help it but that's one profession I've got it hard to feel too much sympathy for. I'm aware of the fact that many teachers do important work but still have it hard and don't receive the respect or financial reward that ought to be their due, but still, I've had such a hard time in the hands of these people that often it's difficult for me to care for the hardships teachers and other professional educators have to go through. I've had my share of petty tyrants who did their best to terrorize the children -- though during our worst puberty years it also was vice versa -- or teachers who were just plain incompetent. I am not going to mention any names here, but it was inevitable this meeting would also bring up these sore memories. It disgusts me and makes me furious to think how some of these same people were, and are, considered the very pillars of society: children can't do much to fight back. It starts to sound like "We don't need no education" in Pink Floyd's The Wall, doesn't it? Probably the dislike of teachers and the school system is an archetypal experience.

Anyway, I went to this reunion knowing I had to meet up with my past. And I had to whet my curiosity; it can't be denied that often I've been thinking of whatever happened to these people, how they grew up, what became of them. Well, my curiosity was satisfied: most of them were now married, with children, having jobs, running their own businesses, some of them living abroad. Some had lost hair and gained weight. Some looked older than their age, some younger. Some of them wore signs of hard-lived life on their faces. The girls I used to have a fleeting adolescent crush with were still cute, bar a wrinkle or two around the eyes. There were some sad and tragic stories of our contemporaries who had passed by prematurely, some by their own hand -- and less sad stories of new ones being born: these people I remember as kids having children of their own. I felt like a freak, the odd one out: but not exactly in a bad way. In fact, I was happy I had found my own niche too, not copying or replicating anyone else's life.

It was not that bad in the end; it was really nice to meet these people after so much time had passed by, but I don't claim I wouldn't have felt uneasy about the whole thing. I felt uneasy as hell, as you would feel around people who once made you feel clumsy, stupid, ugly, embarrassed, out of place. All that needling and picking on; the mocking words still ringing in one's ears after all these years. And how much pain you managed to cause yourself? Some people you once really hated but now had to be cool and polite with, like nothing had ever happened. Thinking they were only dumb and immature children then -- just like yourself. You can forgive but can you forget?

My class reunion images

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Kaukajärvi
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