I spent this weekend with people that have known me from 30 years and earlier, if not more. My maternal aunt, who has known me since I was born, and took care of me every summer (I have written about her and those summers elsewhere in the blog), and a school friend, who has seen me through my awkward perms, teenage angst and other eventful high school experiences.
While meeting people from our past is often a fun encounter, I found a new, additional benefit. With both of them, I felt myself slip into the old me effortlessly. It felt like a relief.
With my aunt, I fell back into joking and bantering with abandon. It was the kind of “safeness” that children experience – they trust, unquestioningly, that they will be understood as they intend, so they are fully themselves. And it was the case with me, where the chatter was free-spirited, bubbly and wholesome.
Similarly, my school friend and I caught up with our lives since we finished school – jobs, heartbreaks, marriages – and yet, I found myself mentally back in the school grounds in Battaramulla, on the outskirts of Colombo. I could see, from his face, that he too was transported to the same place. He, in his cargo shorts and heavy backpack, me in my floral dress and piles of binders. We served on the Student Council, played parts in the annual school drama, and did the sundry things that fill up a student’s life. The tone of our chat was hopeful, positive, and eager, just the way we were at 16.
It can be a wonderful thing, to have people who have shared your past with you. They know you in a way that more recent entrants to your life cannot. They know what you were like when you stood at the start of the line, and they are able to appreciate the distance you have covered since. They have an intimate view of who you were and who have become, the transformation of an ugly duckling into a magnificent swan. If you’re lucky, they choose to still be around and cheer you on from the sidelines as you continue on your way. This cheering squad is to be cherished because there is no one else like them in your life.