My first impression as I left the campus this weekend was, “Wow, it feels weird to be driving again.” As I reunited with my family and took part in the planned activities for the day, I felt several months younger. I was reminded of a time when I had less to worry about, when my greatest level of stress stemmed from petty family disagreements, and when my concerns didn’t drift above food and entertainment.
My sister was reading the high school newspaper in the car. Once I got my hands on it, the realization slowly dawned on me that, though I’ve graduated, the social, academic and extra-curricular structure of Perry Meridian is intact. Despite my best efforts, the school does not need me. New policies have been enacted, controversial changes will affect school procedure, and new (and old) sentiments echo in the hallways about what should the administration should do. And I am now no longer part of it.
Of course, I’m some part of it. But no more a part of it than any alumnus who meets a student. Yeah, so they graduated in this year, and they had these teachers (are they still there?) and now their kid is in this grade. But the connection ends there. Perry Meridian carries on without me. I think that anytime someone ends their involvement with an institution, then returns for a visit, it’s just not the same. We expect to be appreciated, praised, talked to. Often we are. But we feel something different. That something, of course, is our new institution, our new job, our new place of belonging. No matter how far our roots go, homecomings don’t fulfill, because ultimately, we’re not going home. We’re paying a visit.
This weekend is Wabash’s homecoming, which is probably more welcoming and more of a home than high school “homecomings.” Assuming the Admissions Department, upperclassmen, and alumni haven’t been lying to me, it illustrates the deep connection this school’s alumni have. As alumni flock in to relive past college days, I can’t help but think that soon I’ll be in their shoes. I hope that someday when I, and soon when the alumni, visit for homecoming, it will be a true coming home.