Column: Li

The good old days

I used to think that reminiscing was a privilege of old people at my grandma’s age. Curling up in front of the fireplace, they can never get sick of talking about those good old days, sharing bittersweet memories and then halfway through the night falling asleep. In other words, it will be the last thing in the world that I have anything to do with. But life likes to play jokes on us, doesn’t it?

Last Friday, an old schoolmate of mine Tim threw a housewarming party. He was one of the six buddies I used to hang out with a lot in high school. Tim recently bought an apartment and moved in with his new girlfriend. As his best friends, of course we brought our heartfelt congratulations to him and spared no compliments on his beautiful girlfriend and nicely-decorated rooms. After getting to know us a bit better, Tim’s girlfriend casually said at one moment that she was quite curious what Tim was like in high school. This question was like a drop of water in a hot pan. Some guys among us could only play nice for so long before they had to break the buddy code. From making up ghost stories to scare the girls to rewriting a song to tease our principal, they really went all out to spare her no details.

Probably figuring out that denial wasn’t a good strategy, Tim started to switch the attention by revealing stories of other buddies. And like this, the storytelling baton was passed from one to the other. Some stories sounded a bit vague, like a puzzle with some pieces missing here and there. Some were rather eye-opening, since, after all these years, for the first time I got to hear the truth. For example, the title ‘Miss U’ my classmates gave me actually stood for ‘Miss Uniform’, instead of ‘Miss Universe’, which I had believed, intentionally or not, for so long. Most of the stories recounted were as fresh as if they only happened yesterday. The stories were like continuous snapshots, capturing our most embarrassing, reckless, stupid…moments, as well as the playful and carefree ones. Unconsciously, a nostalgic vibe was spreading among us. At our insistence, Tim even dug out our high school yearbook. Well, as you can imagine, such reaction would only fuel our appetite for more memory recalls and more drinks to go along with them.

The next thing I could remember was that within five hours we had transformed Tim’s lovely home into a typical student house: stained, stinky, messy, you name it. Although our hosts had seen us out with big smiles on their faces, we weren’t sure if any of us would be invited again in the near future. Anyway, some people say that reminiscing about the past is a sign of growing old. Regardless of how much this holds true, I’d still believe that ‘growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional’.

Lei Li, from Shanghai, China, is recent MSc graduate in science communication. She can be contacted at: