Getting out of school early after finals was typically a freeing feeling. You got to go to Panera after class in high school and see your friends at the pool, but in college, this feeling just isn't the same. This is a weird period- an awkward transition. This is a time where you leave all your best friends behind and head home. You run into people you haven't seen in years at the neighborhood stoplight. You have to check your speed in case your neighbor is out walking the dogs. You have to relive a different period of your life while feeling like you're in a completely different one. It's weird.
I dual enrolled in high school for my senior year then went off to college with only about 20 people from my graduating class at a 35,000 population school. And to say I haven't kept in touch well is an understatement. Being home is uncomfortable. You see people you used to have class with, people you used to be friends with, people you hated, people you had crushes on, people you awkwardly dated, and you forget how to act. The local Mexican restaurant is a scary place. You don't know if you should make eye contact or say hey or catch up or death stare because with a year or two or more without consistent communication, you don't know where these relationships are at. You don't know where you stand with anyone. Now that they don't have a homeroom binding them to your presence, they don't have to entertain your existence if they don't want to.
My Instagram is a weird collage of my friends from school studying abroad and people I knew in high school reliving their glory days on docks and in the basement like nothing ever changed. Despite being a few houses or streets down from people, I never feel that I'm included. I felt like I graduated and dropped off the face of the earth- it was what I always wanted. I wanted to never see a soul again from Etowah except to death stare them at crosswalks post-grad. I never wanted to relive any of the feelings I experienced in high school again even though I knew I would be spending my summers too close for comfort.
The truth of the matter is, not everyone was horrible. I cut off ties I probably shouldn't have. I was too anxious to block everyone I graduated with. I should've kept in touch with the girl in my Spanish class that was always really nice or the sweet boy who sat behind me in math and answered all my questions or the girl I always talked to on the track at cheer. I should've been more present in the lives of people whose pocket-sized friendship really mattered in mine. I let my bitterness get the best of me and it's not so fun to be angry anymore. Now I'm home, feeling pretty lonely but terrified to reconnect with people I spend the past 12 years of my life with.
This isn't to say I'm not doing well. I'm an intern for a non-profit that changes the lives of thousands of people every day. I don't just get coffee but I learn skills in a field I want to work in. My thoughts and ideas are valid and brought to the table. I inspire people looking at a Facebook post at a grocery store checkout line to make a difference in the communityaround them. I work retail at a boutique whose staff brought me joy during my senior year when I lacked thereof. I work childcare and hear children that can barely remember to keep crayons out of their mouth remember my name and shout it across the room. I do makeup and watch as people's eyes light up when they turn to the mirror. I'm doing well, but I'm doing different- at least than I would have ever expected.
I'm pushing 20 years old, I moved out a year ago, and my mom still packs my lunch for work. It's weird because in one zip code you're an adult- expected to pay your health center bills while in your hometown, you can't go to the grocery store without alerting the family. Your shower doesn't feel like your own because there's all new shampoo and you don't even know what it smells like. The water pressures feels different than you last remember and you feel gross without shower shoes even though you're the only one using it. The local Mexican restaurant has a different feeling when you realize there's a whole crowd of regulars that you don't recognize. People feel like they have to talk to you even when you know they're complaining about the conversation the whole ride home in their SUV. The neighborhood pool doesn't feel like yours when it's all families with kids who didn't exist the last time you were there.
Your home may not look the same anymore. There are probably new restaurants and stores that used to be an old video game company or a frozen yogurt shop, and your younger siblings' clothes probably crowd your room and their closet is probably full with your favorite tops. But this is your home. This is where you get to shower barefoot. You mom packs you a PB&J; just because she can. Your parents treat watching food network together like the best family bonding since Six Flags of '09. You get to choose who you talk to in the Kroger checkout line. You get to sleep in your own bed with your own sheets and you don't even have to climb up a ladder to lay in it. You don't have to walk a quarter mile to eat a bowl of cereal. You don't have to have a standoff every time the trash needs to be taken out. If you go to the doctor, you're not the one who has to be responsible for the insurance card.
Home is a place of little luxuries. The pieces of our lives we overlook until we're past them- like the crust off of a sandwich or a hug from your favorite kids at church. The regular customer at your retail store makes you feel better after a long day on your feet. The smell of your favorite candle burning in the kitchen. The way you feel like you can drive anywhere without using GPS. Your mom ordering pizza and a movie feels like a million bucks. These little luxuries in life are the ones that matter to create the big parts of who we are.
When I applied to UGA, one of the essay prompts was to write about the "blackberry moments" of our lives as referred to by the 2017 commencement speaker- 'the sweet moments in life that are right there to be had, but we're focusing on other things'. I never understood what that meant until coming home from the very University that prompted me with such a question. The blackberry moments of our lives aren't the times we got the job or won the state championship- it's moments like these summers post-grad. Where you lay out by the pool with the family you used to be ashamed of going out in public with, when you drizzle melted butter on popcorn from the stove and binge watch Netflix with your dad, when the dinner table has every seat filled for the first time in a year, when your bags are unpacked and under your bed because you won't have to fill them for a while.. These are the moments of life- the sweet ones- that we didn't even realize we were having.