Last August, I wrote about leaving the city I had come of age in and how it felt to leave all of my friends behind. As it turned out, I would get a job within the next couple of months, move out of my place in Minnesota, say goodbye to my temporary roommates (Mom and Dad), zip down I-94 and start a new life in my old town.
Now it’s almost one year later. Time flies, and I find myself thinking about how much movement happens in August and how much change occurs before the leaves turn shades of orange and red in this beautiful college town. New blood revitalizes the city and the old guard is packing up, leaving and transitioning to a new stage in their lives.
For the first time, I’m not part of it. My life is comparatively stagnant, though not necessarily in a bad way. I’d be completely immune to the moving and shaking of the August rush (a new apartment with a good friend barely counts as change) but for the fact that some of my best friends are moving on.
It’s a strange feeling watching friends you’ve known for some of the most formative years of your life leave. I’ve gone through it a few times, but this time it seems more potent, more permanent, because the last batch of my college friends without jobs in Madison are taking off. On one hand, I feel happy for them, because I know they’re headed out to chase their future and become the types of people they always dreamed of becoming.
On the other hand, it’s such a huge sadness to see cardboard boxes packed with memories you helped create fade away, down East Washington or Gorham headed towards their next big adventure. Pieces of a “me” that no longer exists are in those boxes, pieces that only remain in memories and pictures and deep pangs of nostalgia. As much as I dread watching my friends leave, I’m also mourning a past version of myself that they take with them.
It’s weird to be on the other side of moving out. I know that I have a life here, and I’m very happy with it, but I can’t help but wonder what life will be like without being in the same zip code as some of the people I’ve formed deep bonds with. I’m worried that after they leave, I’m going to be a less interesting person.
Then again, I know myself well enough to understand that I’ll never be happy with myself if I get complacent. I’ll always be chasing fun and running away from boredom. I’m not friendless in this town by any measurement. I still have a network of people I consider some of my best friends. I’m meeting people I barely knew in college, people who were only ancillary characters in my life’s story, and we’re becoming very close. We cling to each other because we all haven’t quite figured out how to make new friends, and I’ve started to figure out what amazing people they are. I also work with some very cool people, many of which I consider friends.
Everyone will move on eventually, and so will I, and we’ll go through these motions all over again. And that’s ok, because this change is good. It’s movement. There’s really nothing to worry about, because it’s all part of life. I can take solace in the fact that wherever my college friends are, and whatever they do, we’re inextricably linked to a particular time and place together. We’ll carry those memories with us, and they’ll help shape who we become.
So here’s to old friends dispersed across the country, starting new lives and starting over. For now it’s so long and goodbye, but I have a feeling our paths are bound to cross again. My couch is always open.
The first time I laid eyes upon what would be my college campus was Labor Day 2005. I was on a tour to see which colleges I liked so I could start applying. Before the tour, my dad, brother and I wandered around State Street and eventually ended up on Langdon Street (Langdon is “Frat Row”). You could just feel the hangovers of the people celebrating the end of summer and the start of a new year.
Empty beer cans were all over, furniture was out on the sidewalk waiting to be picked up; the area looked a little decrepit.
And I smiled.
Right there and then, I fell in love with the Babylon of the Midwest: Madison, Wisconsin.
It’s been five years since my first introduction to the city. I graduated and it’s time to move on, and that means leaving my home of four years behind. It’s time to pour a 40 of Keystone Light (naturally) on the curb for my brief but memorable stint as a Badger.
“Where you come from is gone, where you’re going to was never there, and where you are ain’t no good unless you can get away from it”
As I sit here on Graduation-Eve Eve, desperately trying to study but ultimately failing (I’m listening to music and my test is about music, so….win?), I find myself thinking about the future. Monday, May 16th is LITERALLY the first day of the rest of my life. Everything’s changing. The only world I know is going to be gone (though I’ve still got plenty of debt to remind myself of college). It’s a little terrifying, but it’s also new, which is incredibly exciting. So, instead of mourning four years of my life that will rank as the most enjoyable, wild, and exciting ever, I might as well see the positive sides of graduating.
Congrats, class of 2010! We each get a graduation present: the opportunity for reinvention. The best brands, products, and services adapt based on changes in culture, trends, and technology. Unless you’re Coca-Cola, you don’t stay relevant for so long by being the same. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to rebrand ourselves.
Rebranding. Don Draper did it (yes, he’s a TV character. I watch TV. Get over it). Dick Whitman didn’t like who he was and where he was from, so he changed into Don Draper. He took the hidden parts of his personality and projected them. Robert Zimmerman did it, too. Here’s a kid from northern Minnesota who decided there was something better out there, picked up his guitar and moved to New York to become Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan is the best example of personal rebranding I can think of. Musically, he went from folk and blues to protest music to surrealist electric rock to country. And that’s only the first decade of his career.Hell, if the Rolling Stones can make a disco album, you can change too. Become someone new. Reinvent. The world is dynamic. Not even your personality should stand still.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t whitewashing the past. It’s not even really about looking more appealing to recruiters and higher-ups at your job. It’s about the opportunity to let others see you in a different way. We’re in for a lifetime of first impressions, but in these next few months and years we’re going to be experiencing a TON of them. Make them count. Play around with different sides of your personality, see which one fits. Nobody said you had to figure out who you were yet, so use that to your advantage.
I’m not talking about some extreme, Britney-Spears-shaving-her-head change. This isn’t Urkel making a machine that turns him into a suave, debonair Stephan Urquell (not all the TV I watch is high quality). This is about is taking existing parts of your personality and messing around with the percentages a little bit to let other aspects of your personality shine. Become more outgoing by forcing yourself to speak up at group events, even if it’s a little stressful. Tell more jokes. Argue with people. You’re no longer bounded by everyone already knowing who you are, so there are very few preconceptions about you. Use that. It’s a wonderful gift.