Coming Home, or...I Once Was Lost But Now I'm Found
Today I went back to my hometown for my aunt's funeral. It's only about 25 minutes away, but I haven't been there in years. I spent the first 22 years of my life there in that little town of 5,000.
Oh, how things change, and how they somehow stay the same.
A plant torn down here, a new one built there. A new row of townhouses over there. The river is clearer here, but cloudier-looking there. The streets look a little cleaner. The bars I used to go to have either been torn down or burned down.
I saw people I used to know. My family, who really never changed in my eyes, but who seem so distant now that I only see them at weddings and funerals. We're strangers, really, but we have that deep connection that only cousins who see each other every ten years can have. You know that someday, as more and more people die off, your cousins will someday be one of your few livings genetic links to your past -- living proof that you really did live there and do that and exist back then.
I also saw former friends. Two of them. They weren't really friends, though. They were part of my "group" during some painful years. My drinking years. The years when I did many, many, many things that I'm not proud of. I did stupid things. They didn't like me, but they liked my friends. We had mutual friends, and so they tolerated me. A lot of people had that kind of relationship with me back then. I think that if I were them, I would have not liked me very much either. I was a lost soul, so desperate and so pathetic.
Of course, now, I am very different. I am an adult with children and with responsibilities and a mortgage and a career and a university degree. I am so removed from that lost soul. Yet, sometimes...actually, quite often, I find myself yearning for those years. I miss my hometown. I miss those really good friends who partied with me. I miss the guys I crushed on and wish I had another chance because I'd do everything differently. I get nostalgic about those years. I hear '80's tunes and I feel so old and sad, and I long for one more day or hour in that time of youth and not-so-innocent innocence.
Today, though, those two friends-by-association ignored me. They pretended they didn't recognize me. So I pretty much threw myself on top of them to force them to acknowledge me, just because I'm rebellious like that.
"Wow, I didn't even recognize you!" and then "Wow, you haven't changed a bit!" It was all very phony and yet still snarky enough to let me know they still loathed the person they knew. "You live there? I have no desire to go there!" and "Isn't it nice how we've all matured!" and other snarky little comments.
So, I'm looking at these two, and they're still sporting the same haircuts and they're still working in the same factories and they're still sitting at the bar drinking and smoking. And I had an epiphany.
All these years, I've been yearning to go back. To dance once more to a black Michael Jackson who I thought was into chicks. To drink a Molson Light served by my favourite hot bartender in my favourite smokey bar. I've always felt like I left something back there. A part of me has been left behind, and I've always been missing it.
But now, I know I haven't left anything behind. I've just moved on. I grew as a person. I became somebody's mother, twice. I busted my ass to get my degree and make something of myself. I grew up.
I did go back in time today, even if just for a few hours. I realize now that I would never want to go back to things the way they actually were then. I haven't been yearning for the past after all. I was wanting to go back and change things I'd done. I was yearning for the ideal past. Where people liked me, where I always got the guy, where I didn't make so many mistakes.
Coming home today, I drove up the highway like it was the Daytona 500. I couldn't wait to get home. My home, where I now live, is my hometown. I've always been torn about this, but now I know. This is my hometown. My home, my life, my world, and it is not as bad as I thought. Why would I want to leave here to go back to that? I don't know what I was thinking.
So what did I leave behind all those years ago? What did I leave behind today? The lost soul, I suppose. That person who didn't know herself, who was always frustrated with people who didn't take the time to get to know her, who didn't know how to relate to people, who had not yet lived. That person who had some painful years and had always wanted to make it right.
My two acquaintances are never going to change the way they feel about me. In their minds, I am someone else. For real, though, I am not that person. I think that's what has bothered me all these years. That there are people out there who's last memories of me are not, well, very favourable. I can't change that. I can't go back and make it right. I can only thank the heavens that it's over, I'm here, I'm happy, I'm content, I have friends and people who love me. I'm not lost anymore.