I left the house at about 6:30 Saturday morning. It had been over 4 years since I had last made the 3 hour drive from the home where I grew up to Tuscaloosa. From homecoming at my high school the night before, I was driving to homecoming at UA.
I’m beginning to realize that I really should have forced myself to write something right after I got home (even though it was 1:15 AM). I was about to launch on another narrative like my last post. That’s okay, but what I had so far was really beginning to feel boring. So, let’s try something else.
I think the thing most on my mind after this last trip to Tuscaloosa can be boiled down to a single question: “Why do I go back?” In a lot of ways, I can feel myself slipping farther and farther away from my connections there. I’m not there very often, so people are usually a bit surprised to see me (that is, those that are left that know me). In the case of some of my EE professors, I think surprise actually drifted a bit into confusion. On Wednesday, I happened to catch them pretty much right when they were going to a faculty meeting. I’m afraid I came off just a bit too eager as I said my hellos. I promise I’m not a psycho stalker. It’s just nice to see some of the people who helped put me where I am now. That’s sometimes hard to express without coming off looking clingy.
As for fellow alumni, fewer of them showed up for homecoming this year. That’s to be expected (and some of them had mitigating circumstances…AKA “baby Tsark”), but it’s going to become more and more common the further I go.
On top of all this is the growing desire not to be one of those alumni who hangs around long after his expiration date. I remember the awkwardness as a student member of my professional engineering fraternity not knowing exactly how to greet this person that no one seemed to know on sight. I don’t want to make people feel like that.
So…with all these reasons, why do I continue to go back? Well, for this year at least, I think I’m pretty safe in saying that the reason is that people still there want me to come back. I began to have some inkling of this when I stopped by the fraternity house on my way out on Wednesday night. PJ caught me and made it a point to ask me to show up at a meeting on Saturday morning to discuss issues relating to the chapter and alumni. That’s one of the reasons I left as early as I did. The meeting went quite well, and it gave me some confidence that I still have some useful part to play.
In addition to that, though, I really have to give special kudos to Patrick and Julie (members that joined after I graduated) for making a geezer feel welcome. We talked for a large part of the day on Saturday, and Julie even got to see my head explode as I realized that I was riding out for party supplies with someone not quite 3 years younger than my little sister. 🙂 Actually, it bears mentioning that these are among the people who so openly invited me out for wings while I was in town last year (again, see the post).
You know, it’s a hard thing sometimes to know where the line is between healthy nostalgia and clinging to the past. I’ve said before that I enjoy my life the way it is now, and it’s true. I miss a lot of things about college, but I wouldn’t go back and do it again. Because of that, I’ve decided that if I ever don’t have a good reason to go back, I’m going to stop. If this last visit is any indication, though, that time hasn’t arrived yet. Thanks, folks. It means a lot.