Last month I got on a plane and flew south to a tiny Southland township called Waikoikoi for my primary school reunion.
Waikoikoi is a farming township between Gore and Tapanui, with a population of just enough families to have a primary school role of 14 pupils.
This is where I spent three years as a pupil from the ages of 8 to 11. Having had a few small appearances on the telly over the years, I was asked to come and speak at their jubilee dinner.
On the plane, my mind was working overtime. Who was and who wasn't wearing a face mask? Can a virus be spread in the aircon? When can we fly overseas for a holiday? Where do planes park up when they are not being used? What on Earth am I doing heading towards a group of people whose only connection is attending a school I last visited 34 years ago?
Many of us spend our school days wishing they would hurry up and end, but I have to admit I absolutely loved my reunion.
The anticipation of seeing your buddies from the old schoolyard was palpable as I wandered towards the hall.
Before I stepped inside, I took a deep breath, straightened up my somewhat "loud for Southland" shirt and headed straight to the wall of school photos hoping I would recognise some of my classmates.
It didn't take long before I bumped into some familiar faces. Some were aged beyond their years, a sign of the hard slog of life. Some were radiant after returning from their jobs abroad before the borders closed. People of all ages were back-slapping, laughing and pointing at photos of their year and trying to put faces present to faces past. It was amazing how quickly the memories flooded back.
Over the weekend, it became increasingly apparent that the difference between primary school and high school was self-awareness. You spend your days at primary unfiltered by the big human issues, more worried about what you're doing at lunch and after school. Then you transition into high school and spend your time worrying about what people think of you, what you'll be when you leave school and trying desperately to discover who you are and where you fit in.
That was the great thing about returning to the schoolyards and the time when we were not corrupted by social standing and wealth. There was a nostalgic feeling of freedom and innocence.
Cheese rolls were eaten in between updates of what people were up to in their lives - what jobs they had ended up in, what relationships they had ended up in and where they lived. At one stage, one young girl was crying to her mum that she didn't know anyone and it was boring.
As her mum urged her to go and play with the other kids, I couldn't help but wonder if this young girl would return to her school one year to celebrate and reminisce.
I hope she does. No matter what sins I have committed over my life and what paths I have walked down, I loved the fact I could catch up with some old friends without judgment. They were just happy you were alive and felt welcome enough to return to the community that helped shape you.
It was like being a kid again. I guess I was lucky it was a small school because it felt more like a wedding party than a reunion.
Everyone has a different experience at school and, for some, it could be traumatic to revisit those chapters.
But I'm so pleased I went. I'm pleased I met the husband and kids of my first girlfriend (yes, I had a girlfriend at age 9 ). I'm pleased I discovered the huts in the trees at Waikoikoi primary are still a thing at lunchtimes. I'm pleased I caught up with the parents who were also your part-time parents when you went to a mate's house down the road, and I'm pleased people were kind and inquisitive.
I always assumed you attended a reunion to gloat about how successful you were. By the time I was on the plane again, heading back to Auckland and thinking about Covid, I realised reunions are not about where you are now but celebrating where you started.
Mike Puru is a radio host on The Hits.