To start, I have to say that the fact I am halfway through my college career at this point is still something I try to deny... life moves way too fast. That said, since I've been over two years out of high school, I have found myself torn between wanting to go back and visit and not wanting to see the place ever again. However, circumstances have prevented the latter, since sisters need to be picked up, performances beckon for my attendance, etc.
Only this past Monday, I found myself in the high school auditorium watching my sisters dance in a friend's class presentation. Yes, it was nice to run into some old teachers and friends, but my visit started off stranger than any other had. Upon my entrance to the school, for the first time since leaving, I had to hand in my ID for scanning and receive a visitor's pass with my face on it. I cannot begin to tell you how strange I felt (though I will, anyway).
For the first time since leaving, it hit me that I no longer belonged in this environment, that I was officially labeled as an outsider. I was, in that moment, a college student, like a zoo animal, stared at by the high schoolers in the halls like I had three heads and spots; they knew I didn't belong. I tried to walk proudly, swinging my car keys at my side, but I felt like that sore thumb. I did not mesh any longer. Life moves on.
In the past, most of my visits back required me only to stay in the car and wait for one of my sisters to hop in. Another couple of times, I'd shown up after school hours to watch a performance or a basketball game, and so also in those circumstances, I did not feel as though I was interrupting the flow of the school day.
Once or twice, I and a few close friends stopped in purposefully to say hi to some old teachers, but those visits didn't feel as odd, for a couple of reasons. First, I was not alone. Second, these stop-ins were during a time that lots of college students had been swinging by for visits. My sisters told me that each day of the week they would see others who had graduated. The school even developed a protocol for how early we graduates could show up, and in these cases, nobody needed a visitor's badge. We were expected.
But on Monday, it felt the way it likely will for the rest of my life. I realize now that there are places I used to exist that I don't anymore. It's like a puzzle that's changed its configuration. There used to be a place for me, and now I just don't fit. There's a proper hole elsewhere. And never had I felt this disjunction before Monday. I am a college student now. I go to college. And I realized this in the faces of all the students I did not know, walking the halls I used to walk as a student myself. I walk them now as a foreigner.
Going back into Somers High School will forever be, well, weird. I honestly don't think I'll ever go back after my sister Julia leaves, because her grade holds the last bunch of familiar faces. Maybe my friends will ask me to visit a teacher here or there, but for now, I think I've learned where I belong.