I grew up in a small town in Indiana full of cornfields and with a population of about 3,000 in the county seat. I’m thankful I got to grow up in a place where you didn’t have to lock doors and could go walking alone at night, even if I did struggle with trying to blend in, weird child that I was (and weird adult that I am now.) But I don’t regret my decision to pick up and leave that town, where my options were pretty much get married and have kids, or become a waitress or bank teller, or maybe get to keep writing for the weekly newspaper on an unlivable wage.
I often think about how simple life was then and how friendly people were and have often thought of going back. Of being somewhere where I naturally belonged and knew most everyone and could just hang out at the local bar or a pig roast on weekends. But then I get a reminder of the old saying about never being able to go home again. Like I did tonight.
I had “friended” one of my old high school friends on Facebook and had even thought that if I did go back, we would have much in common, as she had traveled and lived much of her life single, although she did eventually have kids. I felt she would be the one person most likely to understand me out of anyone.
We were exchanging comments on a thread on my Facebook about a silly B movie I love and suddenly, she hits me with how she misses her “old” buddy and how I talk too much about me… on my Facebook page (you know, the site I use to promote my writing and try to make a living.) And just posts this out of the blue when we’re talking about “Sharknado” and Sybian machines of all things:
“you seem superficial alot…I am your biggest fan…your pics fascinate me. I have traveled as well, dined exquisitely, and dreamed…however, I don’t have a bone of conceit in my body”
Blindsided is an understatement. That was about the last person from there I would have expected to make such hurtful comments, and make them publicly without provocation. And one of the few people whose words could actually be hurtful, even 30 or so years after the last time I saw her.
I don’t even know exactly what brought it on… the fact I post links to my work, this blog… I really don’t know.
“I’m a poor photographer and writer struggling to survive. I don’t think I pretend for one minute I live some charmed glamorous life — in fact, I’m trying to convey the opposite: After 20+ years of wiping asses and stressing myself to the point I’d rather put a bullet in my head than work another day as a nurse, I now do a crappy work at home job that barely pays my bills to try to get to a point I can make a living doing something I love. But my life is my own again. I’m sorry I’m not still the same person you knew in high school. I’m sorry I’m not the same passive, weak, let everyone walk all over me person I was then, but you have NO idea what I have been through the last 30 years and no right to judge me.”
Then she kept insisting I didn’t understand and she wasn’t judging me. She was complimenting me… she loved my “spirit.” Would that be the spirit you just did your best to crush 60 seconds ago? The one you were cutting down and trying to put back in its place even as you were complimenting it?
She only remembers the girl who let everyone walk all over her, and has never met the woman I am now. She thinks of the girl who would never stick up for herself and let everyone kick her. But that girl is gone. That doesn’t mean the one who replaced her is better or worse, and if I had to pick one, probably worse, to tell you the truth. Almost certainly worse, actually.
I don’t know… maybe I am superficial or conceited, but I can’t go back to or give time to people who want to knock me down. Why does it always seem to be women who do that?
And it reminded me again of another friend of mine from high school. A guy who went to a top college and worked in New York in advertising. After many years he moved back for a simpler life, and threw himself into the community, resurrecting the old Canoe Races event and bringing in more tourism, which is the primary economic product there. Then I read in back issues of the paper how he was pushed off the committee for it, and he and his wife banned from even volunteering ever again for this event they had poured their heart and soul into, because of complaints from volunteers for the annual event.
The reasons cited? His arrogance. His conceit.
I guess it’s better to get it out and see it now rather than after going back so I can avoid a huge mistake. As Susan J. Matt said in The American Journal of History:
“The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ has entered American speech to mean that once you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis you can’t return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life and, more generally, attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.”
Note that last part: “Attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.”
It’s a hard lesson to learn and remember, but I guess you really can’t go home again, indeed.