There is something special about seeing an old friend after a two year absence. Returning to Illinois and Minnesota for the first time since the winter of 2007 I was able to meet up with friends I had not seen slowly age, mature, and come into their own. There is something beautiful about witnessing these changes slowly, but a stark realization of all of these things simultaneously is, perhaps, more lasting an impression.
In Illinois, a friend has acquired not only a wife, but has a child on the way. Another has moved on from an unhealthy lifestyle to a clearer path. In Minnesota, an old friend has found a new life with a wonderful lady. Another has bought and renovated a home. Still others have done similar mature activities since last I was state-side.
Seeing old friends after a long time is cathartic, we fall into our old conversations easily, and our comfort levels – rather than abating – somehow grew with distance but became more mature. Instead of chatting about ongoing drama, we chatted about the future, our homes, and our significant others. Instead of sitting outside, we were now old enough to get into restaurants with bars. So much has changed, but almost all of it in a good way.
However, returning to a place where you spent significant time is harder than seeing old faces improve. A place holds memories and, when gone, you think of it in a specific way. When you return and it is smaller, less monumental and less note-worthy than you remember, it is a hard realization. There is always the lingering thought that settling in that particular place again would be the same as it was previously, but history, despite the Socratic saying, doesn’t repeat itself in this sense and returning home you always find it changed, but ever the same.