Old Town, New Person

Eight months away from home changes you. Any freshman at college could attest to this, especially Emerson students who are so often from out of state and living in a city for the first time. You don’t have your parents there to guide you, you don’t have them there to say no. You are forced to learn time management or else suffer the consequences. You make friends. You lose them. You cry and, in the process, you learn about yourself. It’s impossible not to. But then this weird thing happens after you’ve shoveled your way through all those experiences. You come home. After all this change you are suddenly thrust back into familiarity. You come home for the summer. It’s hot, you’re sweating and all of a sudden you’re not sure what’s going on.

Personally, living in a small town in Florida has never really suited me. Boston’s busy atmosphere and northeastern brick buildings are much more my speed. I think living in Boston also made me accustom to a life that I was constantly excited and passionate about. There was always a house show to go to or a class I was looking forward to. Here, not so much.

My small home town is like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day: forever cursed to relive the same ordinary events day after day. This always annoyed and scared me when I lived there. I lived a lot of my early teenage years like that, annoyed and scared, and now I’m back here again resisting the urge to scream at my parents (for no reason) and slam my bedroom door shut. Just like when I was 16.

But I’m not 16 anymore and god knows I don’t want to be. When nothing around me has changed, how am I supposed to remind myself that I have? How do I refrain from reverting back to who I was in high school after a year of self growth?

It’s a difficult question and one that obviously does not have a clear three-step answer. But for me, and for the friends I’ve discussed this with, there have been a few things that have helped.

The first thing I had to realize was that you can’t act like your high school self if you want to convince yourself you’ve changed. And in a small town that pretty much boils down to forcing yourself not to rehash the same gossip you’ve been hearing for the past 12 years. And really why would you want to? Why do you care? Why do you care if Karen and Joe broke up again? If your neighbor failed his classes? Who still hates who from high school? You dont! You’re better than this! Gossiping, especially in your small town where everyone literally already knows what’s up, is shallow and redundant. And getting sucked into the old drama you’ve already moved on from is even more detrimental. When you let that go you remind yourself that you’ve grown up and you also look super sophisticated about being the bigger person in your situation. (Bonus points.)

Of course, this doesn’t prevent you from missing your new friends and the exciting things you did in Boston. A huge perk Emerson has going for it is that there is always something new to do, explore or learn. I’ve really missed this, especially my classes which challenged that growth I’m so proud of now. But I figure just because I’m not taking any official classes doesn’t mean I have to stop learning about things that interest me.

I’m a big reader (literature being ⅓ of my major) so I’ve been trying to keep myself busy with new, cool books this summer. I took a really interesting theatre class last semester and discovered I loved reading plays. They’re great and usually short so you can read one in a day! I’ve been reading a lot of recommendations from my professor. Playwriting, scripts and theatre in general are all things I discovered I really love and I’m curious about. Now that I’ve got all this free time I’m using it to further learn about something that excites me and that I might one day get involved in.

This is, of course, applicable to anyone and anything. Anything new that strikes your curiosity can be thought out, explored and tackled over the summer. I have a friend who will eventually be studying abroad in Italy so she’s using her dull summer to learn to cook Italian meals and snacks for her family. Another one of my friends is going to teach herself how to skateboard because she wants to wheel around the common when she get’s back to Boston. In each case, my friends and I are, at the heart of our chosen activities, trying to remind ourselves of the excitement that is so unique to time spent in college. Plus, in the process, we’ll all acquire cool, new skills. (Yes, reading plays is totally a skill).

I guess overall what I’ve been trying to remind myself as I angrily squint into the blinding sun through my windshield, is that no matter where I am, who I am is always changing. My thoughts are always evolving and being molded. Growth is constant, but, overall, I am the one who gets to decide what kind of person I grow into, no matter if I’m in Massachusetts, Florida or Singapore.

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