I’m not entirely sure what I’m expecting heading back to my hometown Johannesburg for my 20 year reunion; but there’s definitely butterflies floating around in my belly.
Not everyone’s keen on returning to reunions though for various reasons, perhaps bad memories from high school – some mates have never been back to their school never mind aspirations of attending their reunions. There’s the possibility of not being as successful as others? Maybe our relationship status makes us nervous. Society creates ‘templates’ and if you’re not following it; ‘what’s wrong with you’ or ‘why’ are generally the recipient’s responses.
I’m incredibly proud that I’m a King Edwards old boy and even more so seeing that the traditions and ethos of the school haven’t just been maintained – but elevated to new levels.
Attending is also a great opportunity to put some of my beliefs into practice too. I’m grateful I did, visiting the school that shaped me into the man I am today was insightful.
We joined the assembly before a tour of the grounds; followed by golf and then what became a very entertaining dinner. My day starts at 06h30 driving to school the exact way I did back in 1997; only I’m not in the passenger seat. All the emotions and feelings of being at school come flooding back – the good and the bad. I had a mixed high school but I’m thankful for that. Life isn’t all roses.
I didn’t slot into any one specific group back then. I played a variety of sport and as such interacted with some of the more popular boys but was also in the Latin class. We were a small class that had a mix of everything. Academics, the deputy head boy and prefects; some of the best actors and debaters too. We had guys playing cricket, rugby, rowing, squash, basketball and athletics as well as some that played no sport. A mixture of boarders and day boys all from diverse backgrounds.
This all worked to shape my young mind, I was also getting the added benefit of a life education in people skills.
Twenty years evaporate in an instant
How I’ve changed since matric (thankfully, otherwise that really would’ve been a failure on my part) I’ve been blessed to live in three cities; work abroad and travel to fourteen countries. My mind’s been opened significantly through all my travels and I’m richer for it.
I’m also four inches taller and twenty kilograms heavier than my younger self; a completely different hairstyle too with less of it to boot and not as many greys as I’d like (yes, you read that correctly) Needless to say, some of the guys take a while to remember exactly who I am. But for the most part, strap on our uniforms and we may as well be in matric again.
Lesson #1: Self Development pays off
I was terribly insecure back then. Just walking into the school every morning was a struggle; fast forward twenty years and walking into the quadrangle seeing familiar faces is actually a great experience. Talking to guys I’d either been intimidated by or perhaps wished I could be more like was now as easy as brushing my teeth.
What I learned: How I felt back in school was completely my own doing. My insecurities about being liked or being good enough to want to be friends with was all in my head. My behaviour was created by my thoughts, making me seem aloof or distant to those around me so the cycle continued.
Greatest transition from young Andrew: learning that it’s okay not to be liked by everyone and the best you can do is be yourself. That’s how you attract and become friends with those that will matter in your life and vice versa.
Do everything required to be the person you’d most like to spend time with and be friends with.
Lesson #2: Success is different to everyone. Avoid comparisons.
One of the first questions asked is ‘Are you married’ and if you nod your head quickly followed by ‘kids’?
I’ve come close but as yet haven’t been married and currently single too. (I think my wife’s playing the world’s greatest game of hide and seek.)
What I learned: Everyone’s path is different and there’s no ‘right way’. In fact the best response from one of my classmates was ‘Are you happy’. I most certainly am. ‘Then that’s all that matters mate’
Greatest transition from young Andrew: Up until I had my first kiss at 19, I wondered if any woman would ever be interested in me romantically. Now I look back on some profound relationships with exceptional women that, just as King Edwards VII School, made me a better person. Combined with the first lesson above, I’m comfortable walking into a situation where I know I’ll be the only guy in my position – and be okay with that. Whatever traits you wish you had, you can have them it’s never too late.
Measure your progress against yourself, not anyone else.
Lesson #3: Our school years are so important
I was fortunate to go to such a great high school. In fact my Latin teacher is the one who inspired the name of my blog when he told us ‘dare to be Renaissance Men’. This meant that between school and home I was challenged to be my best; always be a gentleman and have an unwavering respect for myself and others.
It’s fascinating to hear all the stories of where everyone’s paths have taken them. It’s inspiring to see how they’ve become champions in their various fields but more importantly: life.
What I learned: It doesn’t matter who you are on this planet, we’ll all experience utter moments of bliss, death and setbacks. The sooner we realise that it’s not what happens to us that defines us – but rather how we choose to move forward that does; our lives change.
Greatest transition from young Andrew: I decided one drive back from school that what I was doing wasn’t working. I wanted my life experiences to be better. It’s taken years of trial and errors and looking back on how I’ve progressed, I’m eternally grateful for that decision. None of us are perfect; we all have hopes and dreams; all of which can be achieved.
Figure out what’s most important to you and never compromise on that.
My biggest change in those 20 years?
In Matric I was consumed with me. How will I make the first team; why am I not as popular as other boys? Whereas now, I’m more externally focussed on what I can do for others while constantly working on being the best person possible. A far better balance and focus that has allowed me to cultivate some truly incredible friendship groups that add such colour and value to my life experiences.
Bottom line: Stop worrying about what others think and make sure what you think, is partnering with where you want to go.
Your twenty year future self will thank you.