One of my good friends from high school, Emma, is visiting me in Chicago this weekend. She’s sleeping on my couch, and we’re exploring things I haven’t yet seen in my time living here (There. Are. So. Many.). And we’re going back to things I love.
We were standing on a train platform waiting for a train back to school late last night (late for me, which means before midnight and after ten), both of our feet tired from walking and standing for hours.
“Four years ago, we were still in high school,” she said at one point in the conversation.
It has been four years, hasn’t it? We’ll have our five-year reunion next year. And for the rest of our lives, we’ll be getting progressively farther and farther from high school.
This morning, when I woke up, Facebook told me I’d posted this picture four years ago today.
My acceptance letter. There I am, in my (likely) post volleyball practice splendor, proudly holding the envelope that means I’m going to college in the city where I wanted to be. In my letter jacket.
Almost everything in that picture is changed now. I suppose the only thing that’s the same are the acceptance letter (which I still have… some day I’ll throw it away) and the fireplace, which is made from stone.
My letter jacket no longer hangs on my body but in the coat closet at my parents’ house. Our family room (pictured behind me) has been painted and rearranged (twice) since then.
I haven’t played volleyball since that last game of my senior year. (but just saw on Facebook that my alma mater’s team is going to State! Finally, someone achieved the dream.)
I haven’t yet figured out what exactly is different about me in the intangibles. I mean, visibly, my hair is a slightly different color right now, I have two more piercings than when I started college, I think my face looks a little different. But what you can’t see? I’m not ready to identify that.
I eat more protein now. Eggs! Beans! Who knew I could have such a diverse palate? I’m my own chef. I’ve tried making new things – and sometimes failed miserably.
“You know this place,” Emma said last night, after I said I thought we needed to walk west in order to get from State to Dearborn. A small feat, but I thought, yes, sometimes, I do. I’ve gotten decent at orienting myself in Chicago. Not fabulous, but decent. I can navigate the brown line and most of the north side pretty easily and can get to either airport without a problem. That’s something. I can get to any part of the Loop.
Sometimes I walk a mile in the wrong direction after I get off the train, realize my mistake, and walk back. So I know some of this place, and I’ve gotten better at walking longer distances. And worse at double checking the direction.
I know I write about different things now. I’ve thought sometimes about if I should start a new blog, get a fresh platform. Some of my posts are from 2011, yikes! That wouldn’t be a big deal if I hadn’t been 17 that year. Some of the posts are cringeworthy. (but hey, I can still write cringeworthy posts)
But it’s true to the process, both of learning to write and growing up.
Today feels like a landmark. Four years ago, today, I was just beginning to be a part of college, just starting that process of figuring out what I wanted to study, who I wanted to be, and how I’d fit into a new place. And now, I’m 41 days away from reintegrating into the place I left – but a different version of it.
I can’t say much for certain about what has changed in those years, but I’m marking today. We can tick it off of the wall as growth of some kind.