My younger brother told me this week that when he has dreams about our whole family, I’m no longer in the dream. I’m choosing not to consult Freud on this one and hoping this is only because I don’t live at home anymore, but it still stings. Coming home from college and being surrounded by family again is a scary thing. I used to see these people every single day, be completely privy to their comings and goings, to say nothing of bowel movements and menstrual cycles. College, however, has taken me completely out of the loop. And if this isn’t my loop anymore, where is my loop?
My sister is suddenly driving, my brother is graduating high school, my younger brother is heading to middle school and my dad can’t keep up with me on skis anymore—and it’s all happening without me around. Somehow their milestones make me feel older than my own. Seeing a girl whose diapers I changed get behind the wheel of a car (my car) packs way more punch than my own birthday. Worse, it’s all happening without me. Half the time nobody even bothers to tell me these things. It took them three days to tell me that my dog died, for Christ’s sake.
I realized today that I don’t even remember what I got on the SATs. That might not seem like a big deal, but I was one of those kids--there was a period of about three months where that number seemed like everything. You can’t imagine that you’re ever going to forget that number, because you write it on college applications and tell it to guidance counselors and more grudgingly to the nosy girls with nice straight hair and Tory Burch flats. These girls have middle-tier brand-name business college written all over them. You, with your Wilco T-shirt and viola case and haircut that makes you look like Barbara Streisand in The Way We Were, are rather obviously destined for the liberal arts.
You’re going to go off to that liberal arts program and promptly forget about those girls. You’ve got down-to-earth people here. People who get you. There are people who read books here, and even boys who don’t think you’re a freak for reading books. Even kind of like you for it. These are people who care about what is going on the world, and want to write and talk and sing about it. You find your tribe.
You keep an ear and an eye to your old tribe, but one day you realize that this where you really belong. The old loop is still going on and changing and shifting without you. You can make guest appearances, but you’ll never quite slip back into your old place. Deep down, your allegiances can stay the same, but there’s no dual citizenship allowed.
It’s all as it should be, of course. It’s a story as old as time itself. We go out and take on things we never thought we could, find ourselves a new tribe, build ourselves a new loop. We forget numbers that used to mean everything.