It’s a funny feeling when you check into a hotel in a town that you used to consider home. You want so badly to tell everyone that you aren’t a stranger here, that you know this place like that back of your hand. But, life changes, and suddenly you’re just a stranger passing through.
I was just in Marietta (Ohio) this past April for my best friend’s baby shower. Surrounded by our chosen family, we celebrated the new life of a baby girl we hadn’t met yet. Aside from the foresight of a new addition to the family, it really didn’t seem like life had changed too much in the five years since college. We romped around town like we owned the place—visiting our favorite restaurants, getting yelled at for being too loud in a restaurant/bar during family dinner hours, and staying up until the crack of dawn eating entirely too much pizza, chugging beers, and cracking jokes. We were stuck in a time warp, inserting ourselves back into the good ole college days, ignoring the separate lives we left behind for the weekend.
Two weeks ago, that baby girl was born and, this weekend, I had the privilege of meeting her for the first time. She is absolutely stunning and watching her superhero momma, my chosen sister and soul mate, already gliding effortlessly through motherhood was more breathtaking than I ever could have imagined.
As I drove mindlessly through the country roads of my small college town on the way to my hotel, memories began to flood my head. My eyes welled up with tears as my mind began playing a movie reel of flashbacks. My footprints were everywhere.
There, on the right, were the fields where we played intermural softball. I could taste the mixed drinks that we blended in water bottles for fear of getting caught drinking underage and the spearmint chewing tobacco we stuffed into our lips because it was rec softball and we were 21, so why not?
I chuckled and shook my head as I passed the one-way street that an old flame used to live on. It took me back to a time of pure immaturity and I thanked God that I didn’t end up with him.
There, on the left, was the park where my good friend married his wife. Just beyond the trees I could see the silhouette of a sternwheel boat floating on the river—the same boat that held our senior week formal as I prepared to say goodbye to the people and place that made me.
Stoplight after stoplight, building after building, I was reminded of all of the beautiful, sometimes scary, sometimes stupid, precious moments that I had once lived through.
After my drive, as I sat in my hotel room drinking wine alone, my mind began reflecting on how much life really had changed since I called Marietta home. Babies have been born, friends have moved away, people have gotten married, and loved ones have passed away.
Life changes. You wake up one day and nothing is the same. You don’t know what is going to happen. You don’t know where you will end up. And you sure as hell don’t get a map moving forward—but you can’t stop the journey.
I found myself smiling as I came to this realization. I will forever long for the days when we were living carelessly—young, wild, and free. But, I feel lucky to have the memories.