It’s official: it’s been over six months since I graduated. In those six short months, I think it’s safe to say that I feel like I’ve aged six years instead. I can’t stay up past midnight. I order beer instead of shots. And I now understand why people find it necessary to drink on weeknights to unwind. When the opportunity arose to visit my alma mater for my first homecoming as an alumna, I wasn’t about to turn it down. An entire weekend to spend pretending I’m still in college living in Never Land? That’s the closest to heaven I’ll ever be. Little did I know that those six months away would make a lifetime of difference.
This first notable difference was that EVERYONE LOOKS SO YOUNG! Like, no older than 16 and the majority of boys probably hadn’t hit puberty yet. Did I really look that young in college? Do I STILL look that young?! How are these kids even getting into the bar! They must have the best fakes. Thankfully since it was homecoming everyone was repping school apparel, so there wasn’t the added difference of not being in the tiniest dress imaginable (not like I used to wear those or anything…)
Immediately after arriving, we headed straight to the bars like any sane person would when returning to college. Of course we had to hit up every bar imaginable just to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t. Every bar still had the same memorabilia hanging on the walls and the same stale beer scent that hits like you like a brick wall as soon as you walk through the door. The bar stools still don’t sit up straight and they have just as many tears as they used to. Each place still has the same specialty drink, and it’s still as sugary and strong as always. Bud Lights are still $2.25, and after accepting that this is less than half the cost of most places outside of my tiny college town, I’ve finally learned not to complain about the cost of blacking out. At least some things never change.
However, my drinking tolerance has definitely taken a turn for the worse. I thought casually drinking two to three days a week would at least somewhat keep me in shape for constant shots with side drinks! I couldn’t have been more wrong. The road to blackoutsville was short and sweet – Rumple Minze galore was all it took. At least my choice of shot is still appropriate and I haven’t succumbed to just ordering “something sweet and strong” again…. Or to just not taking shots in general. That’s when you know you’ve gotten too old. I’ve switched my side drink from vodka tonics to pumpkin ales solely because I still have a tendency to chug liquor whenever I get my hands on it, and when you’re trying to last all day, chugging vodka is the best way to instantly fail (and potentially end up in jail). I don’t think Mom would be willing to bail me out for falling asleep at the bar not that I’m supposedly an “adult.”
While my adult Disney Land still has the same storefronts, same delicious food, same beautiful brick roads that continue to make me fall, same picturesque landscape and same kinds of people, the one thing that’s changed is the faces. You can look around your “home base” bar and see the new group of people that’s taken over the corner seats that used to practically have your name on it. You turn and see the same group of girls dancing on bar stools (and subsequently getting told to get down repeatedly) and instantly (kind of) remember all the times you did that. The girls crying in the bathroom for no apparent reason, the group of friends playing ID roulette and the best friends belting out the lyrics to “Rocket Man” – all things I’ve done far too many times. The places never change, but the people there do. While my four years in my tiny little town in Southeast Ohio will always remain the best four years of my life, I don’t think I’ll be returning any time soon. Not because I’m tired of having two day hangovers or because I’ll have to start renting hotel rooms for my next visit, but because I prefer to keep the memories I have and pretending that any time I return, it’ll be just like it always was. When in reality, it’s not solely the place that makes it magical – it’s the people with you.
Home is where the heart is, but it’s not truly home if it isn’t full of family.