I was just a few months off my 15th birthday and going into year 10. I knew one person there, a guy I’d gone to primary school with and had stayed a good friend. I sat shaking on the lawn that first day, pleading that I’d get put in the same class as him so that I wouldn’t just be ‘the new girl’, wretched and alone.
I spent most of year choosing to hang around the boys. Some may call them nerds, I just call them brilliant. Straight talking and most of the time I knew exactly where I stood with them.
Year 11 was the polar opposite of year 10. Towards the end of year 10, Rach came over from Tasmania and we became best friends – you know, matching shoes and everything so I went into year 11 with a best mate and very excited about getting stuck into ‘upper school’.
Having been very passionate about media in year 10 I managed to get a job as the Publicity Manager for the school’s new radio station. This meant I had to go out and find sponsors and promote the station both around the school and the community.
By some completely messed up bureaucratic nonsense, the same people that decided to set the school up with its own radio station also decided nobody at school was actually allowed to listen to it on anything other than the PA *sigh*.
It was a proper business, we had to spend our lunchtimes at meetings or broadcasting etc. So much time spent in the media room. It was almost like a second home with couches, coffee cups and more movie posters than you could poke a stick at.
It was through the radio station that I made friends with Rod who introduced me to internet chatting, some awesome music and before too long, Nic, my first proper boyfriend who at 16 looked like a young Heath Ledger. Ok…maybe not but it’s my memory so :p
I can’t remember at what point I changed my mind and decided to be a photographer but somewhere between that first fuzzy, grey print and midway through year 12, I was sold.
I’d had a gutful of learning greek tragedies in Drama and with all of my older friends graduating I lost interest in the radio station and at times, school in general. Lunchtimes were now spent alone in the darkroom, building my folio. Engrossed in the beauty of watching the pictures appear on the paper. I lugged a portfolio and photo albums around with me everywhere and nothing was so important as getting into TAFE. Which I did… and it was phenomenally harder back in 1999. Luckily I had a wonderfully supportive Photography teacher, Mr Sillitoe (who now prefers I call him Keith). He taught me from scratch and there is not enough chocolate in the world to ever repay him for giving me this gift.
By graduation, I’d had enough. I didn’t go on Schoolies, I didn’t keep in touch with everyone. I left Kalamunda and I didn’t go back. It was a great school and I’m very proud to have been taught there. But the people made the place for me and those people were never the type to be interested in a 10yr reunion, so I never went to mine.
In December last year, the school turned 50. My curiosity got the better of me. I had to go back. I NEEDED to go back. Kalamunda had made me who I am today (the good bits I mean!). It taught me how to work to briefs, how to manage a team, set goals and collaborate. It nurtured my creativity. I was still pathetic at maths but luckily there’s not too much demand for a vendiagram in portraiture. On this point… I was completely bewildered with all the hoopla about outcomes based education a few years ago, seeing as I’d done it all in 1997!
I took my Husband with me to the school’s 50th celebrations. Poor man was bored shitless but kind enough to tag along. It must’ve been so strange for him. He saw a patch of grass and a couple of wheelie bins or an empty classroom. I saw ghosts of my teenage self. I had to fight back tears as I walked into the media room where I’d spent so much time. I couldn’t bring myself to go up to the art studios where I’d not only had my year 12 form and 3 years of joy but had hung out in the afternoons with Nic, listening to Martin Molly on the radio and waiting for his Mum (an art teacher and later my year 12 form and art teacher to finish work).
I would’ve been an absolute mess if I’d have been able to get into the Photography room. Those four little walls hold so much of ‘me’ in them.
Then a friendly face at last. My very first form room teacher, Mr Guntrip. Huge hugs. Teariness on my part. Bad photography on Husbands part but it completed the day…almost.
In the library sat the time capsule. Not my year, I’m not sure we had one, but for the year above mine. The year I was 16 and all the friends that I’d made through the radio station, Rod and the decision to mix up the 11s and 12s. Bumped into my old radio station boss, Lisa and her Husband, Anthony pouring over the table’s contents with me. Cassette tapes of the radio shows, photographs, favourite trinkets. Yearbooks, more photos.
I had to leave. A girl can only dredge up so much of the past before she forgets to actually live in the present. I’m eternally grateful to the school and the people I shared it with (with a few minor exceptions). It did great things for me.
I get amused though by those kids that say they can’t wait to leave school though…you’ll see. One day you’ll be wearing the rose tinted glasses about your school days too.