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I had a wonderful experience as a teenager. My parents moved to Johannesburg in 1979 for four years, and I went with them. I finished my secondary school in South Africa and we all returned home in 1983.

Before we moved, Mum wanted to find a good school for me. She’d seen Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking in London, so she rang his office in JHB (he was the Bishop there at the time) to ask him his opinion on where best to send me to school. His very kind and helpful assistant told her that Bishop Tutu wasn’t available, however if she were to ask him that question, he’d tell her that she should send me to St Mary’s in Waverley. And it’s where I ended up six days after arriving in Johannesburg, aged 14.

Living there at the time was pretty challenging. Apartheid held the nation firmly in it’s grip. It was only 4 years on from the Soweto Riots of 1976. And yet the girls in my classes welcomed me and made me feel safe. That I belonged there.

The point of this blog is that it’s 40 years since I matriculated in December 1982. I returned to school in October to physically reconnect with many other women from my year. It’s the second time I’ve been back and we’ve stayed in touch through the years. This year was very poignant as we’ve lost a number of class mates and decided to donate a sculpture to the school in their memory. The sculpture was created by a class member, and the dedication by another. It reads: “Though you slipped from our grasp, we have not let go.”

There is a beauty in friendship which comes from a shared set of values. One instinctively knows what they are (there’s the gut again). And some of our values come from the multiple systems we belonged to at school: classes; friends’ groups; clubs; etc.

I once wrote that friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. It’s more than that. The women I spent time with in my youth have a shared bond and connection which endures today. I’m back at that Gabor Mate quote again: “Safety is not the absence of threat, it is the presence of connection.” Valued friends help one to feel safe.

If you have lost your safety and friends and want to reconnect, please give me a call.