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This weekend, between triathlon training obligations and the resulting never-ending laundry pile, I made a quick drive up to Massachusetts to attended a reunion with college friends I hadn't seen in over twenty years. It's not the first time I went to something like this and had my mind ever so slightly blown by the experience.
Part of it was walking around the rural campus that at one time had felt so new and vast. Somehow, over the years, it has contracted. The buildings now looked shabby, smaller, and closer together. I felt like I was touring an aged movie set. It was as if that time in my life was a story that the me of today did not live.
Thinking back to my short time there (I lasted two difficult years at Hampshire before walking away from college entirely for over a decade), I felt fragile, timid, alone, and insignificant, somewhat invisible, only marginally likeable. The surprise I felt this weekend when people I wasn't sure would even remember me greeted me with gusto made me notice that I still, on some level, carry that expectation that I am a marginal being.
But this is changing.
I spotted an old neighbor in the crowd, sporting the same big smile that warmed my shivering heart in the old days. Even so, I was always so timid around him, as if that warmth were not really meant for me, or if I let it show that I was lonely, it would brand me as unworthy of love. Even now, I wasn't sure he'd remember me. But a second later he spotted me and cried out, "Amy!" smiling wide and opening his arms for a hug. As I stepped into that hug it felt like a thin layer of glass shattered and fell away from my body.
When presented with the opportunity to revisit your past, I urge you to go. Especially if it wasn't an unequivocally wonderful time. It is so good to realize that the bad stuff is over and maybe, actually, wasn't exactly as bad as it seemed.