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Making peace with past, present

One of the hardest things about going home for many college students is the awkwardness that comes with reuniting with old friends.

There are stories to catch up on, new personalities to confront, and the fact that suddenly you’re facing the fact that the people you looked at during high school graduation and swore you’d be friends with forever have drifted away from you.

One afternoon during break, I found myself sitting on my bedroom floor and realizing the only person I hadn’t really faced since I left for college was me.

In my old bedroom, there are old pictures of your typical high school memories. The tiara I wore at my senior prom sits on my dresser, and my tassel from graduation hangs on my vanity mirror. As for under my bed —- well, I haven’t even tried to conquer that disaster since I moved to Bowling Green.

I spent the majority of my teen years dreaming about the day I could leave home and never look back. The only thing that kept me from running out of the gym screaming after receiving my diploma was the fact that the elderly people in their wheelchairs were blocking the exit.

It’s an interesting thing, looking at old pictures. I look at the girl I was then and realize that she doesn’t exist anymore. At least not in the sense she did then. I’m still the same physical person I was then. But I’ve grown up.

I found myself at college —- maybe not all of myself, maybe an arm or a leg, or a vestigial organ, perhaps. But the woman I am today is not who I was when I left my small hometown for college.

And when I go home, I’m faced with the girl I abandoned to become a college student.

It’s the dilemma of resolving the past with the present —- the girl in the old pictures meeting the flustered woman sitting on the floor, amidst a sea of duffle bags and college memorabilia. It’s the fact that the person I was then seems foreign, like an old acquaintance you see in passing.

And like the remnants of my old self are scattered around my bedroom, along with the ghosts and skeletons of my past. They’re still there, waiting —- like the junk under my bed — to be sorted and organized.

I’ve yet to put them in their respective places. For now they just sit underneath that hypothetical bed, gathering dust and only occasionally disturbed by a cat looking for a new place to hide from my teenage brother’s friends.

My life is here now. My best friends, my boyfriend, my dreams and ambitions are all here. To go home requires me to put this life I have created on hold, to confront that person I lost in order to find the person I’ve become.

I don’t talk to many of my high school friends anymore, mostly just because we’ve all followed our own paths. It happens to the best of us. We’ve all found ourselves growing up and changing, and none of us knows quite how to deal with the new personalities that have formed.

There’s a certain degree of guilt that comes in that. My old friends from high school accused me of “selling out.” One once told me during a heated argument, “Don’t forget you come from the same white trash as the rest of us.”

It stings. It’s that elusive girl from my past confronting me — and punching me in the gut.

Is there a way we can reconcile our past selves with our present selves? Surely there must be — they both at some point in time have been in the same exoskeleton, shared the same eyes, the same heart and mind. Sometimes, just sometimes, I can see a remnant of that girl. She’s still there, just built upon and improved. It’s what growing up and maturing is all about. Besides the obvious purposes of higher education, it’s what college is for.

The experiences that old Chelsea had are my memories today. Her fears and insecurities now have closure. It’s not about ignoring who you were then, but finding a way that the two people can peacefully coincide in the same shell.

And it’s only when you have found a way to meet that compromise can you allow yourself to really grow up.

E-mail comments to Chelsea at [email protected].

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