I have recently spent a fair amount of time in the town where I went to college. It will forever be a “college town” in my mind because of this. A place where on Thursday nights we felt we owned the town and where sometimes when we went out to our favorite bar we’d come home with a shot glass and no bill from the night before.
College Town is also a nice little community of artists and musicians. The down town area has blossomed in to something beautiful and hip. Topiaries and brick buildings with green awnings beautify the Main Street which was, many, many years ago, known as “the longest main street in America”.
When I lived in this place, I hated it. I found it and the people to be pretentious. I found fault in every little thing and even though I was in the art scene, I hated dealing with everything and everybody in it. I thought it was because they treated me differently. I thought it was because things were handled unfairly. It was not until much later someone told me, about something unrelated, “Why are you so worried about those people’s opinion of you? I guarantee you they are not thinking about you. In fact, people are probably thinking of you far less than you believe they are.” This punched my insecurity and self obsession and vanity in the face.
This morning I went to College Town and grabbed a coffee before my runnings around. The barista was a guy who used to play music at the bar I worked at back then. I mostly remembered him as the guy my friend Catherine and I had a crush on, even though he is a short fellow. A short fellow with a beautiful, soulful singing voice and eyes the color of Werther’s Originals.
He represented the kind of person I thought of when I thought of this place. He didn’t get to know me, he was quiet which came across as judgmental, and he was someone I wanted to get to know me but knew it would never happen. Today I realized that one, I didn’t get to know him either; two, he stays stoned a lot which explains the reserved demeanor, and; three, if I had not been so hostile or hung up in myself and my melodrama, we could have been friends. Maybe more. Or maybe not. We will never know.
I’m not going to regret the time in College Town because it truly was one of the best experiences of my life. But I do see how insecurity plagued me there and other places in my life. And how I do not want it to trickle into the new life I have here.
Age really has nothing to do with a secure self. It mostly has to do with the wisdom that comes from the actions we took or didn’t take. It’s not regret, it’s not remorse. It’s not hating yourself for what you did or didn’t do. It is the good and the bad. It is hope in the darkness of your future and a flashlight casting a glow in the tunnel of your past. Like Leonard Cohen wrote:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.