Lessons You Learn From Going Back Home

Going home can be quite the relaxing experience. BUT going home can be equally traumatic and demoralizing. I’m basing this generalization mostly on my most recent trip back to Orange County.

I have yet to spend more than around two consecutive nights at home since I graduated college. Partly because of my old job and its limitations, and partly because home has never really been a destination for me. And it’s not like I’m a heartless expatriate of my hometown or anything. I love my parents, my house, my dog, the beach (looking at it, not laying on it…let’s not get carried away).

Spending five whole days back in my hometown, in the house I grew up in, with my room completely intact (even with the autographed and framed Michael Phelps photos adorning my walls… how embarrassing) was absolutely surreal. It’s best to mentally prepare yourself when taking a trip back to where everything began.

Here’s the list I would have written to myself five days ago, had I known what I know now.

1. You will run into parents of old friends at Trader Joe’s. Instead of avoiding eye contact, just say HELLO. They’ll be impressed by your maturity. And you’ll feel good for acknowledging them rather than ignoring them. Pretending you don’t know people you actually do know is SO Christmas break 2007. You’re 24 now, so act like it.

2. You will see THAT douche bag from high school at the gym. And you’ll run into him at your most sweaty, red-faced moment possible. You will have just finished a run (jog), you’ll hop off the treadmill to grab some water, and then you’ll see him. He’ll say hello first. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how personable and friendly he acts. DON’T FALL FOR IT. (See point #6.)

3. You will develop a crush on the unassuming nerd-turned-ultimate-catch. You bumped into him over Thanksgiving and have been thinking about him ever since. He grew into those long, awkward limbs and he miraculously went from skinny-awkward to skinny-buff. You will run into him a few times this trip home. You will revert to your old high school habits (playing aloof, remaining coy, and playing disinterested). You’ll be reminded that this strategy is BULLSHIT.

4. You will realize that you’re older than everyone who works at your favorite frozen yogurt shop. You’ll study its employees and you’ll realize that they’re all barely legal (to drive a car). You’ll flash back to yourself at that age and you’ll shudder with embarrassment. You’ll quickly flee the yogurt shop, reminded of how happy you are that 16 has come and gone.

5. You’ll start to appreciate your mom’s friends. You know, the ones you secretly resented growing up because they drove gaudy cars, had fake boobs and bragged about their obnoxious sons. Well, times have changed. You’ll find yourself having an impromptu coffee date with one of them discussing everything from the difficulties of dating to the upcoming election. You will reevaluate your prejudices against Orange County housewives. And then you’ll start to question your caffeine intake and its impact on your better judgement.

6. You’ll run into that same douche from high school at the new, local douche-magnet bar. He’ll ignore you. You’ll wave at him. He’ll look right through you. You’ll feel 15 again. You’ll be reminded that people don’t change. You’ll leave sober and slightly disappointed.

7. Your parents will take you out to dinner at one of your old favorite spots. They will then proceed to confront you about your dating life. Your dad will say something like, “We don’t want to see you alone at 30, but at this rate… well, it’s not looking good.” You won’t have a strong retort. You’ll respond with, “Could you please pass the salsa?”

8. You will get mistaken for someone underage, by someone under your age. A (barely) 21 year old at your neighbor hood bar will ask you if you’re 21. You’ll laugh. A lot. He won’t think it’s very funny. You’ll engage in some awkward conversation and explain that you’re in fact, his elder. Your parting words to him will be, “Be safe tonight!” and that will make you feel even older.

Being prepared is overrated. Sure this list would have come in handy before I headed home for the holidays, but it would have also sucked the surprise and challenge out of the experience. So I guess next time I go home I’ll just have to look forward to the unknown. I think that’s more fun than list-making anyways. Just barely. TC mark

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