Growing up in a town as small as mine was, “homecoming” was one of those traditions I never fully grasped.
We didn’t have a football team (of our own), so our version of homecoming was the annual Sheakleyville Homecoming Firemen’s Fair – complete with a beauty pageant, parade, and tractor pulls. It was one of the many events in town no one dare miss, but it always felt a little silly to call it a “homecoming.”
I went to a homecoming dance one year with a boy I was dating at the time, but it wasn’t my home – so I certainly wasn’t coming back. What a strange thing to look back on, after all this time.
During my time at Louisville, I finally started to begin to get it – it felt like home, except I was already there. Instead, homecoming meant campaigning for sisters and friends to be crowned homecoming king and queen, school spirit events, and 5am tailgates for the big football game. Even last year, my first true experience of “coming home” didn’t feel quite like I expected. I had only been away for just shy of 3 months, and life still felt the same.
Something happened after that though. Life… changed.
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place – because you’ll never be this way ever again.
In those four years you spend learning lessons – both in and out of the classroom, building lifelong friendships, and making (at times) questionable (and alcohol-fueled) decisions, no one one prepares you for what comes next.
Looking back, maybe they did warn me. I mean, everyone always tells you to ‘live it up’ because ‘these are the best years of your life’ right?
I’ve never been one to listen to advice like that.
I think Dean Brody says it best in his song, “Trail In Life“,
“College days / frat house nights
You were more than just a bunch of rowdy friends of mine
You made leaving home / not as hard to bare
Yeah we swore we’d stick together / Till we were in rocking chairs
But we all kind of scattered / Getting our lives in gear”
Maybe a big part of it was moving away – out of sight makes putting the reality of the big changes happening a lot easier to put out of mind. You go to sleep one day in a house full of your best friends, and wake up living 500 miles away in a completely different life. I’ll be honest, that’s a tough pill to swallow for someone who struggles with change.
It’s easy to forget that, while you’re out building a new life – your old life doesn’t freeze frame time. Your friends are growing up and building lives too; beginning new careers, planning weddings, moving to new cities too.
It reminds me a lot of the line from One Tree Hill, “It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday, and then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday, and this is your life.”
Needless to say, homecoming was a bittersweet weekend for me this year.
What do you do when you finally have the life you’ve always dreamed of – but your best friends, the ones you spent every single day with for four whole years – now live anywhere but close? How do you accept that you won’t be able to fit every. single. thing. you want to do in a time span of less than 48 full hours – because you literally want to do every single thing? When do you get used to the ‘new normal’ of a place you once knew like the back of your hand?
Those, my friends, are the questions I asked myself as I (unsuccessfully) fought back tears most of my 7 hour drive back across Kentucky… and then Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. But, luckily for me, long drives have always been my sweet spot for doing my best thinking.
I love that feeling. You know, the one you get when you take a deep breath and suddenly everything feels like its going to be okay. When you’re hopeless as can be, and life is going nowhere, there’s those moments we have every now and then where we just stop, and we get this feeling that just can’t be described, but you just…
you just feel like everything really is going to be okay. Like the world stopped spinning for a second, and everything was clear.
So, maybe homecoming wasn’t the bright and shiny moment that I expected. And maybe that’s exactly what I needed.
Sitting here in my ‘new’ life, 500 miles away, I know there’s not a thing I would change. No matter how much I miss how things used to be, I’m learning to love the way things are now.
I’m overwhelmingly grateful that I am able to grow up beside some of the most incredible people this world has to offer, even if they’re miles and miles away. I’m overjoyed for the amazing things those very people are making happen, even in the moments I wish I really could freeze frame time.
I’m learning just how damn lucky I am to have a city full of love, ready to welcome me home with open arms and hearts.
And as always, when it comes to go Cards or go home…
I’ll gladly do both.