If I took a shot every time one of my teachers said, “When you enter the real world next year…” during my senior year of high school, I would have been drunk more times than I was in college. (Okay, probably not entirely true but you get the point.) We all now know that for the majority of us, ‘the real world’ did not start until after college, grad school and/or when we finally moved out of our parents’ houses and changed our permanent address. For me, that new permanent address and real world experience was far from Pittsburgh, PA; however, I cannot say the say for most of my high school classmates. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that at least half of them remain in the same state, if not the same city.
Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, but will say that I’m not planning on joining the Pittsburgh Residency Club again anytime soon. To tell you the truth, I knew that ever since high school when I would spend my days and nights dreaming of a life outside of here. I imagined living in New York City and working for a popular magazine, or traveling the country as a sports reporter. Other daydreams took me to Florida, California, Hawaii, and any other sunny spot that was far, far away from snowy winters. In essence, I didn’t know where exactly the future would take me but knew it would take me anywhere but here.
Because of this notion, I find myself struggling with trips back home since I know I don’t belong here.
Last night I spent some time with one of my only (remaining) true friends from high school, Matt (MT). As custom after our hangout sessions, I find myself in a juxtapose of thoughts and emotions. My Past vs. My Present/ Future. What’s Made Me vs. Who I Am Today. Most days, as I flicker through Facebook, I struggle to remember those people from my past; and, more importantly, I struggle to remember who I was back then. Or better put, I struggle to figure out if I really am that same girl who once called Pittsburgh ‘home’.
So much has changed these last 10 years. For goodness sake, I’ve changed a lot- or better put, I’ve grown a lot. For starters, I’ve ventured out of the Hampton Bubble and been practically living on my own since then. The friends I had in middle school and high school haven’t been friends since then, and if anything, most of them are nothing more than a Facebook ‘friend’ and someone my mom asks about from time to time. Those former classmates of mine don’t know me anymore, nor do I know them. According to Facebook, most of them are living in Pittsburgh with either a significant other, fiance, spouse and/or child(ren).
And to them, I’m probably just a name from the past that is now living in Chicago and involved in a lot of charity work. Maybe they wonder, or assume, that I have a boyfriend (which I don’t)- although my empty relationship status and lack of photos with guys probably assures them I’m still single. (After all, I’ve always been single. Guess I haven’t changed that much.) And they probably think I’m happy too- as I’ve always appeared to be to those from Hampton. (Happy and very nice is how I’ve always been seen.) To be honest, I don’t remember a time during my teenage years that I was fully happy… which has a lot to do with why I always imagined myself getting out of Hampton in the first place. I just knew there was some other place for me.
But to be fair, there are moments when I wish that I could be one of those people who found happiness in Pittsburgh. Not only would I be closer to my family, but it would be nice to sustain friendships with those who I’ve known since my childhood days. (Thank goodness for Stef and Matt.) But while I could wish and hope sometimes, the truth is I know whole-heartedly that this place isn’t the one for me.
For now that place is Chicago. Chicago is fulfilling those big city dreams of mine, and the people in my life are certainly the friends I’ve been longing to have for some time now. To me, that’s what makes me most content with my life. Sure, I may not be in a relationship, expecting a child, and/or own my place, I know that I’ve living out my dreams. This is something I need to remind myself instead of worrying about what Facebook friends of mine have that I don’t. They may be living out their dreams, just as I’m living out mine.