September 20, 2010 by jessperriam
I was in my old bedroom yesterday on the hunt for some clothes.
At the end of the single bed is an Ikea lattice chest, a handy piece of storage (read: place to stuff clothes). I rummaged through it in search of a jacket I just knew I had.
I didn’t find it, but instead I found a t-shirt that brought back a flood of memories.
2002 was a year that was rather forgettable. I was in Year 12 at the school that was having its reunion a few weeks back. I wasn’t focussed in my last year there – I’d won a scholarship to go on exchange to France and I was due to leave right before exams.
And I went to France, but when I got there I choked. I couldn’t handle the pressure – I wanted to complete the year there but I psyched myself out. Three weeks later I was back home. And I felt like the epicentre of world failure. Or something like that to my dramatic 17-year-old mind.
But when I returned to Australia I couldn’t sit my TEE (that’s your HSC, A-Levels, *insert end of high school exams name here* equivalent) at my old high school. And it looked unlikely I could sit them as a private student.
So I went back to school the next year. Just not private school. Not even a normal public high school.
I went to Canning College – a high school specifically for post high school aged people to get their Year 11 and 12 subjects done. It was more like university than high school. You only had to be there when your classes were on – and there was no Physical Education or Christian Education or any other filler classes. And there was no such thing as detention.
I think 2003 was the year I started to grow up.
I embarked on my first day there with another friend from high school (she wanted to spend another year bettering her previous year’s TER) – we rocked up in her old Volvo and signed up for classes. The campus was an old high school right next door to Curtin University so you couldn’t escape the old 1960s-built Western Australian open plan feel to it.
My classmates were a hodge-podge of people from all walks of life. There was a huge contingent of students from a nearby high school, repeating their exams because a beloved teacher of theirs had passed away while they were in their final year. Others were previous high school dropouts wanting to qualify for university. And then there were others again who didn’t quite know why they were there… and that was ok.
I relished being trusted, treated like an adult by my lecturers (nope, we didn’t call them teachers). And because of that, I returned my nerdy self. I studied, I engaged with the subjects at hand. Shock horror, I liked learning. And I still like learning.
I fear if it wasn’t for that year spent learning – properly learning – I’d be a far more ignorant version of myself. Blergh!
The main thing I remember about the place was that it was a level playing field. There were no cliques. We were all there, eating chips and gravy in cafeteria at 9.30am on a Monday being completely and utterly human.
I made some amazing friends in that place and had some amazing times.
On the reverse side of the t-shirt, I got each of the people I spent time with there to write something. Teachers, friends, stakeholders in the chips and gravy – they all wrote something about our time spent together in 2003.
The sad part?
I barely see anyone from 2003.
One of them I see maybe once every six months and we barely talk about 2003. We talk about all the people I introduced her to post-2003. If I wanted to be honest, I loved her friendship in the rawer 2003 days.
Another one (the girl in the Volvo) is married to one of my high school friends. Her father in law is a surprise reader of this blog (hello Mr White!). We drifted but I’d love to have that friendship back to what it once was – “Hehe… you think this is the end – YOU WISH – ” she wrote on my shirt. Right back at you, I say. I still have such fond memories of driving down to ‘the park’ and just talking, talking and talking.
One scrawled piece of near-indecipherable handwriting belonged to my English teacher. What she wrote on my t-shirt made me abandon my laptop for the better part of 20 minutes on a mad search for a writing exercise she set us at the beginning of that year. “Jess, you are unique – A GIFT – may all your dreams be realised.”
I love the fact that teachers have that level of belief in their students. Or at the very least I love that they have the words to make their students have that belief in themselves.
There’s one friend from those days that I think about every so often. In all the interstate moves and craziness with uni, career and excuses I lost contact with my friend Jo, a beautiful soul. I don’t know what she’s doing, where she is or how she’s doing. But she’s someone who – whether she knows it or not – changed my life when she was at her worst. I would love to reconnect with her, make up for lost time.
There was one purpose at the start of that year – do my exams, get a good enough score to do Media Studies at university. I bettered that. I got a good enough score to study (and later abandon) law. Tick.
But I have a belief that in everything you do, there’s an underlying purpose that you’re not necessarily aware of. For me, I think I had to snap out of my sheltered Christian high school world and come into an awareness of the real world. And more importantly, the purpose was to display compassion and empathy to others without an agenda. Seven years down the track, I understand that lesson far better than I ever could have.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, the ability of a t-shirt to evoke that is even more exquisite.