Friday, March 16, 2007

Blast from the past

It's funny that, no matter how much you try to recreate yourself in your adult life, certain people seem to elicit high school patterns of behaviour from you.

I don't know if any of you are from small towns. I grew up in a town of around 10,000 people. Not quite small enough that everyone knew your business, but small enough that a large proportion of people did. Also typical small town in the sense that people are often relegated into two categories: those who left, and those who didn't (although, really, there are various degrees of this). Both feel the right to judge one another. Those who left are considered snobby big city folk, and those who stay are small town hicks who aren't making anything of themselves. I am pretty resistant to that dichotomization. I still remember going back to my sister's high school graduation, and hearing a friend's parent comment on how "big city" I'd become... despite the fact that my "big city" clothes had actually been purchased at a garage sale in this small town!

Myself, I could never stay there post-high school. The notion of working the same job, marrying my high school sweetheart and living down the road from my parents was never right for me. I think leaving my comfort zone was a vital part of growing up, as you take many aspects of life for granted when you are never exposed to something different. I am also aware, without bragging, that I am one of the people from my high school who is considered to have "made it". This actually sometimes makes my return awkward. I'm not too sure what to say to those who have never left. I think sometimes they are more sensitive to being judged for their choices that reality merits. I still feel attached to them and have fun while I'm there, but there sometimes seems to be a bit of a gap between us. I don't think it is just me... they sometimes aren't sure how to react to me. I really like to think that I am still the same person underneath it all. But I think that this town stays more stagnant, sometimes, then any of the people in it.

Some of my friends panic. A close friend of mine, who is now a social worker, had to leave early one holiday because she couldn't reconcile her new life with her return to her old one. The partying and return to her old ways didn't feel like it fit with who she now was.

Wow. I really went in a direction I didn't intend to go with this post. This was all brought about by two things. The first is that one of my best friends is currently visiting, so last night a group us, including another old friend, went for dinner and a movie. The three of us girls had been a really close bunch in high school, and it was amazing how much I could see the two of them regressing into old patterns of interacting that they don't show when they are not around each other. And I found myself being pulled in the same way. While I like the fact that they both know me for who I am underneath everything, and know all my past secrets, I also don't like feeling like I have to return to high school modes of communicating with them. I don't want to feel like I have to compete with one for the other's attention. Aren't we past this now? Can't we reminisce without having to literally return to being 16? So I try to just sit back and watch, and resist these urges.

The second thing is that, on our way to the restaurant, I ran into the mother of an ex-boyfriend from my teenage years (side note- my boyfriend's mothers all seem to love me. They write me letters after our breakups and plot to get us back together). He is a whole another story in and of himself, but he was also my first everything. It was weird to be in the midst of my life, ten years later, and to all the sudden get this odd, out-of-the-blue reminder of my "former" life.

Some people never want to leave, and some people never want to return. I'm in the middle, which makes these two poles difficult to navigate sometimes.


Beth said...

When you "go away," you "grow away." It's never quite the same going back, because you aren't the same person who left.
And it's not bragging to say you "made it." You did.

(BTW - I just found a comment of yours on my blog that I'd missed (how, I don't know). It's re: the review of The Keep. I'll respond now...)

John said...

I too grew up in a small town. I couldn't wait to leave. And I'm still running from it now.

Never again will I return to a place where your business is everyone else's. There's nothing wrong with "community" but you can live somewhere too small when you're growing up.

Eve said...

That's so true about returning to past patterns of behavior. It's like when I'm with my brother and I feel/act like I'm six again. Dammit.

iFreud said...

It scares the shit out of me everytime I return to my hometown. Wasn't that small either, but small enough that everytime I go to the grocery store or some where common, I see people. (Not, dead people... just the past - which feels like dead people because I have changed so much...) Ugh. I will have some crazy dreams tonight now!

The Little Student said...

I'm also from a small town and understand where you are coming from. However, I ran from that place as fast as I could and dread going back.

cinemec said...

Well you've really struck a chord with this post.
Interesting that the person I have most contact with from the old town is Ant and I barely even knew him back then. Of course he, like me, has moved on from Hicksville, Ecosse.

Ant said...

Haha! I was just going to make a similar comment but cinemec beat me to it... :o)

My situation is a bit weird though - I'm very much "big city" now, but it's a city that's within a day-trip distance from said Hicksville. So I still stay in semi-regular touch with quite a few folk from home - on saying that, the ones I seem to share a bond with most are those that have moved away...

Indiana James said...

Having been born into, lived and now working in a big city, I can't really say I fully understand the small town escape. But I guess it's like traveling. You are there for a portion of your life, short or long, and you take bits away from it that shape you in some form. I lived in China for 6 months and I made amazing friends there, but I know if I were to go back for another 6 months, it wouldn't be quite the same.

LMizzle said...

What kind of old behavior are we talking about? Like teenage whispers and leaving people out?

Man I hate that shit...

If not, explain!!! :0)

soleclaw said...

You struck a chord with me as well. I could argue that the town I'm from (though not originally, but more consistently than any other) is probably smaller than your small town. The same rules apply wherein everyone knows your business and I hate that.

Currently I'm struggling over returning home semi-permanantly. My husband and I are moving in June less than 8 hours away from our small town. Though it will only be for 3 years, there is this nagging feeling I have inside that the closer I get to "those people" the more likely it is that they'll rub off on me. All those old habits of gossip and childishness may come creeping back into my life.

You are right about the dichotomy, too. My husband is in no way a wealthy man. We are still so young, and the military provides for everything we need, but we aren't "successful." That doesn't stop Hicksville from thinking so. Add that to the dichotomy and it just complicates things even more.

Great words, great post.

eric1313 said...

Great post.

"I still feel attached to them and have fun while I'm there, but there sometimes seems to be a bit of a gap between us. I don't think it is just me... they sometimes aren't sure how to react to me. I really like to think that I am still the same person underneath it all."

I felt like this after freaking community college. I could only imagine the distance grad school must make you feel from many of your old friends. I felt a true feeling of growing apart from many of my friends, despite our personalities being relatively the same. I was called 'pretentious' by one, and some of the others I just didn't want to sit around and get drunk with until we puked anymore ever again--maybe party but not until completely drunkenly duhrs. :)

Little joke, but the feeling is true.

I can do bad on my own--as I have heard many times throughout life. And it holds very true.

But other than that, I just want to read, write, cultivate my arts, and now, I want to meet people I have more in common with. And I have been.

btw--i started a new blog with Singleton, where we write--you guessed it--poetry. If you ever wanted to check it out, go ahead. It's for posting the poemd we write back and fourth in comment boxes. There are several that both of us wrote together, and many that are seperate. The tags on them indicate authorship. It's called "the Butterfly Bar" if you ever wanted to take a look-see.

Peace out and have a wonderful night, Princess.

Remember: "Education only leads to more intelligent kinds of trouble."