I apologise in advance to anyone who actually reads this - I would advise that you don't! I am trying to clear something out of my head that has been knocking around for a while, and the hope is that by rambling about it on here, I will actually be able to get a decent night's sleep. There are also items in here that I have not talked to anyone about.
Between the ages of 11 and 14, I went to a private school, and for the second and third of those years, I boarded there. I did not have the temperament for boarding, nor the social skills to be able to succeed within my peer group. At the age of 14, I came very close to breaking down altogether, and I left the school. I have since had frequent nightmares about being back there.
However, I have found myself in recent weeks deliberately going out and looking up information on that school and on the people that I spent three years of my life with (to the extent of getting in email and Facebook contact with some of the people that I was closer to). I am dragging up memories, most of them bad, and going over them again and again. This on the outside (and from the inside!) seems very much to be a stupid thing to do - I should leave the past well alone, and let it sink to the bottom of my memory pile, covered over with the dust of years. But, at the moment, I can't.
I can think of a few reasons for this.
It has now been over ten years since I left the school. I know that there were good times as well as bad, but the bad memories are clearer and sharper. By getting in touch with people who have nicer memories of the school, they can help me (without knowing it!) to bring those better memories to the fore. (for example, instead of my memory of sports being tainted by being the only person in the year not to be put into the big rounders match (the teacher forgot about me), I can remember about being in the tennis team, for one match...)
There is also the idea of picking at a scab to see if the skin underneath has healed. The memory that taints most of my time at that school, colouring even how I feel about going back through the county, is that of being assaulted by one of the boys in the year above me. It was not a serious assault, and I doubt that the boy in question either (a) considered it to be an attack at the time and (b) even remembers the incident now. However, it left a pain inside me that has persisted, and affected the way that I saw and interacted with boys and men for a long time afterwards (indeed, until I met John...) When I went back on Facebook and found the group for my year at that school, he was on it. And I am incredibly happy to be able to say that I was able to look at his picture and think about what he did with complete detatchment (rather than the sick to the stomach feeling I would have had a year or so ago). It is in the past, and whilst it has affected my life, I think that I can safely say that I have healed from it, and that I am a stronger person because of it.
And, the most important and overarching reason: I am coming up to a very important day in my life (some would say the most important, but I am withholding judgment until I'm on my deathbed...). It represents an external committment (I made the internal one a very long time ago) and a new chapter. Therefore it is important to me, even on a subconscious level, that the past is tidied up and sorted out. As with any person, I will always have 'baggage' to take forwards, but if it is in boxes and packed away neatly, then it is a lot easier to carry.
The school gave me a lot of pain, but it also made me who I am today (to trot out the old cliche...) My streak of independence, my resilience, my thick skin, all are as a direct result of what I went through. I can't say that my life wouldn't have been happier if I had never gone to that school. But the direct path that I was on at the age of eleven led me to this stage in my life, and the wedding next week. (If I hadn't gone to the school, then I would probably have less independence than I do now, meaning that I would be less likely to have gone to Australia on my Gap Year. This means that even if I had gone to Exeter, I would have been a year younger when I met John, and far more naive, and our relationship might never have happened. I also started my love of Sci-fi / fantasy as an attempt to escape from the reality of the school around me - if I had never been there, I might not have the deep love for the genre that I have today, and might never have joined the Sci-fi society to meet John in the first place!)
It is very easy to be fatalistic and say that it was all meant. I don't believe that, but I do believe that the bad times are as important as the good ones (if you don't have bad things happening, then how can you know how great the good ones are?) The most important thing, for now, for me, is that I feel that I can finally close that chapter, that I can accept what happened as something in the past. That the memories, good and bad, are not ones to be ashamed of. When they surface, as they will, in response to a smell, sound or other trigger, I will be able to look at them and accept the emotions, happy, sad or painful, that they engender in me. And then put them away and get on with my life.