Before I left home to return to Dartmouth for 16X, I sat on the couch in my friend’s family room as we talked about our upcoming summers. The few of us still left in Columbus glanced around at each other as our numbers dwindled. Our previously loud and rambunctious get-togethers had turned into small quiet hangouts. We sat curled up together under blankets, Bachelorette playing in the background. Two had left for New York City, one had left for Denver, Colorado and I was preparing for my return back to Dartmouth. Out of nowhere, life smacked us square in the face. We were no longer teenagers hanging out in each other's basements gossiping about classes and boys, but instead real people trying to decide what to do with our lives. We now talk about our internships or research opportunities and share stories of semesters abroad or life at college. Instead of complaining about curfew, we willingly go to bed early because of long days at work and early rises to do it all again tomorrow. Somewhere along the way, we had grown out of fireworks at the cornfields and friday night lights and grown into business casual and internship hunting.
The time apart from the hometown homies makes me realize how important your home base is. They sure know how to drive me crazy, and yet I haven’t been able to give them up in my nearly 21 years of life. We are all in different stages of life yet somehow they all find a way to connect back together. Although birthdays are now celebrated on Instagram instead of a backyard and the only time I see them is the pictures on my wall, I know that, with them, I stand on steady ground.
There is an extreme difference between growing up and growing old. When I am surrounded by the people from home, I am reminded that, despite the daunting real world ahead of me, I always have a place where I can be young and foolish. As I watch my beautiful friends develop into successful people pursuing their passions, I refuse to forget the awkward haircuts, brace-full smiles, and horrendous fashion sense we all shared and experienced together. I am absolutely terrified of growing up. With the hometown homies, I know that I never fully have to. I could not be more thankful for the sound group of people I get to call home.
As our lives change and we grow away from the 16-year-olds still grinning back at us on our driver’s licenses, one thing stays consistent. The people that I’ve known since kindergarten, through the awkward elementary years, the even more awkward middle school years and the ups and downs of high school are the same people that I love to call my best friends. It’s no longer a five minute drive and a phone call that separates me from my hometown homies, but a 13 hour drive and six months. Despite the time apart, it’s always like we never left.
It feels like just yesterday we were cuddled up worrying about our first day of high school. Now we are halfway through college with adulthood in sight. Life freaking flies. Don’t forget to enjoy it.