Whether it was secondary school or university, your last few days at school were likely filled with bittersweet partings and promises to keep in touch(which you probably broke after less than a year). At that point in time, you probably couldn’t imagine a life outside your current circle of friends. But, as time went on and everyone pursued their passions, life got in the way and your communication became limited to liking their pictures on Facebook. Pictures in which all was well with the world and they were leading perfect, manicured lives.
Perhaps they are. Perhaps they’re not. But I can tell you certainly that bumping into an old classmate whether from secondary school or university, is bound to hold a number of surprises for you. Key phrase : bumping into.
We know all about reunions, but everyone gets a period of time to prepare for that. Most want to impress, to show how far they’ve come. Not a bad thing, especially if you were seen as not likely to succeed back in the school days. In preparation, you could always lose a few kilograms, get an expensive weave installed, go for a facial and a full makeover, or get a shiny car to make everyone green with envy.
But it’s a different ball game when you bump into each other. You are unprepared, physically, mentally and socially, except you had a genuine friendship with the person, or you really are just that kind of happy, open person. Changes are mostly physical (of course, duh) and career/success wise, and they come in an expectation-versus-reality kind of comparison that leaves us either mightily awed or totally disappointed.
I couldn’t end this article without sharing a few experiences.
It adds up: the years and the weight. A moderate number of us added a few kilograms here and there(secondary school classmates) which didn’t look bad in most cases, in fact they mostly look really good, while almost all my uni classmates have added obvious weight. I once bumped into an old uni classmate who had become so big(wide, more like), that for a moment I was actually scared of saying hi to him. Seeing as skinniness is not particularly a desired trait in our society, I do not say this proudly but I am one of the few who remained almost the same. 53kg in my final year of secondary school, 55kg close to a decade after. Oh well.
Some become unrecognizable. I once saw a lady and wondered at how she looked so eerily familiar. By the time I finally realized who she was, I was shocked as well as curiously awed. She had gone from Viola Davis to Halle Berry within 7 years(at the time) and not in a very attractive way. I have always held a strange curiosity and awe for people who effect drastic changes in their physical appearance without feeling guilty or weird about it all. Of course it was normal for everyone to go one to three shades lighter, being that we were now mostly in control of our lives and hardly had reason to walk under the scorching 3 o’clock sun. We all know that Lagos sun has no pity on day students, especially if you walk to and from school everyday. But doing a skin tone overhaul a la Michael Jackson? Left me gobsmacked. So don’t feel bad if you actually don’t recognize an old classmate. I’ve been told this is the least astonishing thing to see. Imagine realizing that a former classmate had become a criminal. Yeah, I thought so too. (I actually came up with the criminal part).
Expectation versus reality
Most didn’t turn out to be what everyone had expected. This made me realize that school smart doesn’t equate world success.
Some who we had expected some kind of high flying career from, those who had that lethal beauty+brains combo, ended up settling really comfortably into motherhood and family life.
Some who weren’t so pretty and were mostly invisible and shy, somehow went to the market and bought confidence. Yep. I’ve got one foot in this group.
Some who were super smart and who came from families with good pedigree to boot, ended up doing just, well, average.
Some who had been break-neck beautiful turned out really quite average too. Sometimes even below average. Can’t really understand this one.
Some got wild. I mean from religious or average moral young man/woman to promiscuous living-nightclub hopping-body piercing-tattooed-smoking and drinking-half naked pictures on social media-human. Shame.
Some actually turned out as expected and did very well for themselves in their fields. Vera Chika Ani, who always got almost all the prizes on prize giving day, went on to bag a first class in engineering and is currently working comfortably somewhere in the United States. Ebunoluwa Taiwo, smart and quick witted, is currently a doctor. Modupe Ola, which most Nigerians know by her stage name of Mo ‘Cheddah, began showing what she would be from those days. Even being in a Catholic all-girls school didn’t stop that. There are many others, these are just a few.
Many, no, A LOT of us ended up practicing in fields as different from what we studied as Biology is different from Economics. Who would have thought?
It helps to know that, you are not alone in the struggle to be something in life. Seeing old classmates makes you realize how far you’ve come, or how far you’ve yet to go. But, never be condescending or overly awed, because in the race of life, overtaking is allowed. The way you look at someone who hasn’t quite achieved as much as you, is the way someone(in your set) higher in accomplishments than you are, will probably look at you. Over and above all, remember that your biggest competition is YOURSELF.
Like I always say, life is one well-spiced pot of jollof rice.
Feel free to share your own experiences. I can’t wait to hear them all!