I had dinner with a long time friend on the weekend (and by long time, I mean 30 years now) and was speaking with another "older" friend earlier this week and it got me to wondering about where I am now and how I got here.
Growing up in a small town, I was a pretty stereotypical nerd. I was smart, wore glasses and had the social skills of an overly enthusiastic dog. I just wanted people to like me and to recognize that I was cool or special or SOMETHING. Like a lot of young people, I was awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin.
By the time I was ready to enter high school, I was determined to be someone else. A better, cooler, less gawky version of myself. The me I could see in my mind's eye, not the doofus from earlier years. It was easier, I thought, to make the change then, since I wouldn't be constantly surrounded by the people I'd grown up with to that point. The high school was fed by ALL the public schools in town, so I could make new friends, be someone else and NO ONE would know any different.
As with most of the best laid plans, this grand scheme only sort of worked. I re-acquainted myself with some old friends from earlier public school years and was accepted as a larger part of their group. We had a lot of fun in that group - going to theme parks, cottage weekends, parties etc. I felt like part of a group, an accepted member. Things were good.
As I can see now, looking back, being a part of that group made me feel good, but it seriously stymied my forming other friendships in the school. Oh sure, I met a bunch of other people and they were fun and interesting, but I never really opened up to them or became tight friends with them since I already had my own group.
Since most of the gang were older, they all graduated and moved on before I did. Things changed, as they always do. We drifted. Some friendships were finally revealed to be the toxic wastelands that they really were. Some people dropped off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again.
By the time I was ready for university, I was done with the small town and ready to re-invent myself, yet again. This time I would get it right. I would be someone else entirely. Someone who didn't make mistakes with boys or treat people badly. Someone who wouldn't let others dictate the course of my life or try and manipulate me into being or doing something that wasn't really me. I swore that nothing would bring me back to that little town or that old me.
Fast forward a number of years: I've got great friends from my short stint in university, a friendship with my ex-husband and his family, a new relationship and a child of my own. I live in another small-ish town, but I did manage stay true to my never-going-home creedo.
It's amazing how much clearer things become with time, distance and maturity. I realize now that I really didn't have to leave to become someone else and that the memories of my youth really did create the me that I am now. Sure, if I could go back in time to visit a younger version of me, there are TONS of life lessons that I'd be sure to impart. If I could do that, however, I really doubt I'd be sitting here now, writing this.
What I have learned, however, is this. I didn't have to leave everyone and everything from that small town behind. I can and have re-kindled old friendships and they are rich and satisfying in ways that I never believed they could be. While you may not ever really be able to go home, I think, sometimes, you can bring bits of home to you. And that is truly a great thing.