It wasn’t always this way. It used to be fun to run into people and catch up briefly, and depending on the person, sometimes it still is. But other times it can be awkward and depressing. Recapping how you’re doing to a person you knew at such a different time in your life is strange. Sometimes you barely recognize each other. Other times only one of you recognizes the other. Often, I’m asked what it’s like living in New York. “Aren’t people rude there?” is probably the most common question I’m asked, followed up by, “I just don’t think I could live without my car.” While I sympathize with that sentiment (being from Atlanta, I do love driving), it’s weird to have to justify your choices to someone you barely knew during sophomore year when all you’re trying to do is grab some ingredients for a pecan pie.
Whether you’re from a small town or a bigger metropolitan suburb, going home can feel like a lot of pressure. There’s so much history, so much nostalgia, and it’s just as weird when things stay the same as it is when they completely change. Since moving to New York, beloved businesses near my parents’ house have closed, subdivisions have magically appeared out of nowhere, friends have married and had babies. Life has moved on there, as my life has moved on in Brooklyn. Revisiting my “old life” is fun, but like that relationship status option on Facebook, it’s complicated.
Once I ran into an old friend, someone who I still consider to be a very cool person even though we no longer really know each other, and she brought up an old inside joke we used to share back in 1997. “Green M&M’s?! Remember?? GREEN M&M’S?!! HAHAHA!” I felt embarrassed that I had no idea what she was talking about. She tried to remind me, but I was blank. I felt like I disappointed her a little bit, since she remembered so much more stuff than I did, but I guess that’s just what happens when you get older. Some stories stick, just like some friends stick, and others fade into the distance.
In a way Facebook has made it less awkward to run into people, because now you have some idea what’s been going on in their lives without having to ask. You know that that one guy totally went to jail for selling pills, and that girl who ran track strangely gained 70 pounds after college. These are good things to know in advance. But nothing can prepare you for running into your first boyfriend and hearing him say, “I just got engaged!” or running into a guy you had a huge crush on who turned out to be an unemployed schlub just like in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. I grew up watching movies like that, but now my life is like that.
None of this is to say that I don’t still keep in touch with a lot of the people I grew up with. I do, and I love returning home and joining in the reunion-style festivities for at least a night or two. But this year, I’m thankful to do without.