When You Were Young

27 August 2010

[I realize, in retrospect, that every person has a story like this and most aren’t nearly as melodramatic as mine. But it is my story, and I’m sticking to it.]

I’m seeing ghosts around every corner.

It’s been two weeks or so since we moved back to my hometown. Well, for this year, we’re not exactly in my hometown. We’re actually living across town and it’s an area I haven’t spent a significant amount of time in these past 10+ years or so. But way back in the day - when My-So-Called-Life and Pearl Jam were on every TV and radio, when the guys from U2 were still in their 30s, and when I wore birkenstocks all year round – I spent nearly every day here. This is where my church was, where my friends lived, where my boyfriend(s) were. I guess I really did kinda grow up here… but being back here is feeling rather odd.

I take the wee ones to the park where I used to play as a preteen, with the old slides and giant animals we would hide out in and tell secrets to. I drive by my old church (where we still visit rather frequently) and feel the butterflies in my belly that I used to feel, driving down that road, anxious for youth group and who would be there and what would happen. I wait in parking lots where I used to wait, in those first old used cars, waiting for friends to get off work, and all of us climbing – we were quite the crew – into the same vehicle, heading off on some mildly dangerous adventure. I drive past the hidden entrance to the rope swing, up and down the hills where we could go hill-jumping, past the restaurants we used to only order coffee or desserts in, past the parks where we would go late at night and laugh and talk and occasionally make out (sorry, Mom). Memories, everywhere. Old, dormant, weird-feeling memories.

And then, of course, like every story – there is a boy. When I was 18 (well, ages 14 through 19, sadly), I loved a boy who didn’t love me back. He lived right down the street from here and I drive past it more than I would care to. We were together really only a year, but being absent for so long and now coming back, strange and sad feelings return as if it was yesterday. Feelings of heartache and regret, and I hate feeling that way.

It took me years to move on and let go of all that. Mostly they were great memories, many old friends still remain great friends. But I was a different person then. At least, I think I was a different person then. I was young, and naïve, and infatuated, and running wild. The friends who remain grew with me and know me as who I am now. But still, being here, I wonder if I’ve really changed at all. I’m still longing to belong, trying to fit in, looking for affirmation. I may not be trying to find those things in boys anymore, but the insecurities are – not surprisingly – still there. Every landmark and road that still stands remind me of a time when life was great and carefree, and yet heartbreaking and tragic. They remind me of who I was, and who I still am.

So today, I began making new memories. Maybe not to replace the old – (I’m not sure the bad ones will ever completely go away, and I think I want the good ones to stay; I was young once and there was joy and love and friendship.) – but new memories with my kids and with my man and this weird time of transition we find ourselves in. Memories set to new music and changing landscapes and the laughter of my children.

After all, I do think - if I were to be truly honest - the girl I was then would look at the woman she became with surprise, and be so relieved.


  1. ack! you gave me chills, and sor tof turned my stomach with familiarity of the weird-feeling that comes up on occasion at home. i'm jealous and relieved all at the same time that it's you and not me returning home...

  2. I completely get those feelings. I'm not who I was, which is great, but who I was makes me a little uncomfortable. That is my translation anyway...not as elegantly put, for sure, but Kansas City has the same effect on me.

  3. I remember going back to a place where I had finished high school and thinking similar things. I am not who I was then. Yet if I had seen not only who I was going to be, but the lives of those who were so "in" then, I would have relaxed.

    I met the boy who was the cool dude in high school stocking shelves at the local grocery store. I looked at him, and I looked at me... and I smiled. Why was I so intimidated and felt so unworth anything in highschool? I've grown... and it is good.

    But a big positive thing came one time when I met another boy from my graduating class. He said hi, showed me his kids, and then mentioned that Andrew had gone over to the Far East for a year as a missionary, but then his dad died, so he had to come home to manage the dairy farm. He paused and then said, "He came back changed and he struggled to fit in here again." Then he paused some more and said this next sentence which healed much of my heart, "I guess we all never realized how hard it was for you when you came here. You would have seen the world differently than we could understand, too."

    That remains a jewel in my heart, a gift given which heals. Not only did I grow up, they grew up too. They were just kids, like I was, and the shadows of that time were bigger than the events - much like our shadows in early morning.

    We all grew, and besides the man stocking shelves who thought he could get far in the world based on his good looks and cocky attitude, we all changed into people much better than who we were.