The Long Road to Home

Posted on | February 22, 2016 | No Comments

Last weekend, we left the comfort and safety of home to drive the long road up to my old stomping grounds in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. My sister and her family live in the area, and we had tickets to some pretty amazing Tar Heel games, so it was a trip I’d looked forward to for some time: four days of Carolina sunshine, strolls through campus, the obligatory drink on Franklin Street, and even time with family.

Who says you can’t go home again, right?

Only… as I discovered poignantly, you sort of can’t. At least not to the home you remember. At least not to the person you were when that was your home.

As I walked along the brick pathways and heard the loud music bouncing out of the fraternity houses along Columbia street, I realized that I am not the girl I was when I last walked these steps. And I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t make me a little teary-eyed, in the same way I choke up a bit when four year old choirs sing. It seems the years are catching up with me.

This fall is my twenty year high school reunion, which means that as of August, it will be twenty years since I was a cropped hair, dewy skinned freshman coasting the stairwells of Hinton James dorm. It’s been twenty years since we hung “Funeral Crossing” signs up and down our hall and held a dour-faced funeral for a suite mate’s fish before ceremoniously flushing him down the toilet. It’s been twenty years since I went to bed after watching a scary movie only to find a friend hiding in my dorm room closet wearing a monster mask. It’s been twenty years since I last threw my arms over my head and danced with abandon alongside the girls of Floor Seven to eighties music blaring from a stereo placed strategically in an open window.

I don’t often realize it’s been so long. I don’t often understand that I’m not that girl, who danced into the wee hours of the morning and laughed with eighteen year old abandon. I don’t often realize that my bikini days are over, or that even if they weren’t, this body is more lined and creased and aged than I sometimes believe. I forget that when I let my hair down, it is often dry and brittle, less lovely and free than it used to be. Much like the rest of me.

And when I do remember, when the truth rushes in that I am not the me I was, I find that I don’t want to embrace it, the way I feel I should. Rather than hold my head high and love the me I am, I want to throw it all away to be her again… the young, carefree, wanderlust youth who believed all people were good, that death, disease, and heartache would always pass her (and her loved ones) by, that any problem could be solved with a cold beer and good Michael Jackson album.

This weekend, I tried to remember what it felt and tasted like to be eighteen with the world spread out before my feet. This weekend, I walked in the footsteps of a younger me and desperately tried to scratch and claw my way back to that person I was twenty years ago. Instead, this weekend I found that I am older and not always wiser and certainly not able to dance into the night without needing to sleep for days and perhaps, you know, see a chiropractor and a podiatrist to get back in working order.  This past weekend I tried desperately to go home again.

But alas, now it is Monday, and I find that I am still thirty-eight with an aching back and sore feet and now with a dull ache deep in the pit of my soul where the memories ripped fresh the old, familiar sores.



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