Visiting your college town after you've graduated is a lot like seeing that ex-boyfriend you know you're not supposed to be with.Though anxiously anticipated with nostalgia and a twinge of apprehension, it will leave you feeling equal parts satisfied and disappointed.
Your favorite sandwich tastes just as delicious at that old, familiar restaurant, but the friendly staff doesn’t recognize you. The racks in that crowded boutique are still overflowing with merchandise, but the trends are different and the chatty salesgirl of yesteryear has moved on. You’ll make the visit craving comfort and familiarity, only to realize the traffic patterns have changed. Before you know it, you’re stuck in a left turn only lane, when all you want to do is go straight.
It’s finding yourself sitting across the table from that old flame. It’s that broken-in pair of blue jeans and a devilish grin, 2 days off a shave and 1 week since his last haircut. It’ll pull the rug out from under you and have you rethinking things. His sleeves are rolled up haphazardly, just as they always were, but a fresh tattoo is exposed on his forearm, and you’ll realize you don’t know the story behind it. Same characters, different scene, curtain call, begin Act II.
You owe it to yourself to remember how far you've come. In remembering the fits of laughter, tears streaming down your cheeks, don’t forget the tears he caused every time he let you down. He showed up with flowers out of the blue, but he forgot anniversaries and holidays. When you think back on your college days, you remember the leisurely brunches on sunny Sundays and the late nights with friends. Nostalgia has a way of making us forget the spontaneous rainstorms and the treacherous traffic and the lies he swore he’d never tell again.
Revisiting the past is a necessary evil, but only every once in a while. It will remind you who you are, who you were, and how far you've come. It will forever hold a place in your heart, like a first kiss, but more meaningful because here you charted out your independence. You ordered pizza alone and did laundry and shopped for groceries and got lost and asked for directions and cried sometimes until you thought you were going to throw up. But you laughed that hard, too, and it’s all part of the process. You made decisions and second-guessed them. You threw your hands up in defeat, but also in victory. You owe a lot to your college town and that ex-boyfriend alike, they helped you become who you are.
Just as children outgrow toys and clothes, maybe as adults we’re supposed to outgrow towns and relationships. Memory Lane is a good road for the occasional stroll, but it's no place to buy land and build a house. We can’t stay in one place forever, you know.