A couple of weekends ago I went back to my old college town. I graduated twelve years ago and haven’t been back to good old Kirksville in easily a decade. It wasn’t that I stopped loving Kirksville. My life had just taken some serious detours from the path I thought I would be going down and even though it’s only three hours away it might as well have been on Neptune. There’s also not a lot to do in Kirksville if you aren’t in college and I guess there is this weird limbo of years between graduation and when visiting is cool again. I packed Kirksville away and sort of drifted on.
Then a friend from back in the day and I reconnected. On Facebook. And of course it got me to thinking about Kirksville again. I loved living there. I loved the town as much as the university. It was amazing and the older I get the more I appreciate that time in my life. When my friend invited me up to her baby shower I realized I had a very good reason to go. My schedule, usually insane and unrelenting, opened up a beautiful little gap so that I could drive up and spend the day. It was perfect.
It rained the entire drive. That meant no stopping to see neat things along the way (like Walt Disney’s childhood home.) It also meant narrowly missing an accident when the old Volvo in front of me died suddenly and I had to swerve like a maniac to miss it. The rain, lack of stops, and near death didn’t matter, though. When I came into Kirksville I couldn’t stop smiling. The sun was shining. It was beautiful. And as I drove through the center of campus? I couldn’t help but cry. I felt myself buzzing with happy energy as I drove around town, bounded around campus, and truly let myself feel the magnitude of how much that place had changed me. There was this moment as I retraced old steps and relived old adventures that I could truly see myself at different points. There was freshman me anxious for a chance to figure herself out, senior me bogged down in the muck of not liking herself at all, and adult me, standing in front of Ophelia Parrish grinning a weird grin and feeling very much rooted in my own skin. New freshmen and their parents swirled around me but I was stuck beautifully in a frozen moment of time, connecting the dots and coming out whole.
Getting to see my old friend was the icing on the cake. I also got to see my childhood best friend and eat at my favorite restaurant. I was able to gather all these pieces and tuck them close to me. The next day, after getting home, I put in for time off for Homecoming weekend. I also started thinking about a long-term plan where I could move back to Kirksville and call it home again. It won’t be a decade between visits this time. I no longer subconsciously want to avoid the past. I embrace it.
Sometimes you can go home again. And again. And again.