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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Hazards of Home

Published: December 2, 2005
Section: Opinions

The scariest aspect of returning home on breaks from college is the risk of bumping into people from high school that I just have no interest in seeing. This Thanksgiving break, I ran into way too many people. I think I counted nine. And as comfortable and as happy as I am with myself and my life, running into people from high school turns me into a self-conscious wreck. Suddenly, Im worried about what Im wearing and if my hair looks alright.

This weekend, I endured the most awkward conversation of my life. I was wandering and unfortunately I wandered smack into an old high school acquaintance. This particular person was someone I needed to prepare forlike, with a new wardrobe and some breathing exercises. At the time of the most awkward conversation of my life, I couldnt help but think about how disheveled I looked, with my old ratty fleece coat and staticky hair. I just wanted to shout, Im not like this anymore! Ive changed! Im successful! Im thinner! I have better fashion sense, honest!

Later that day, I switched to my warmer coat, which happens to be a beautiful yellow Michael Kors knee-length fitted coat. With only the change of a coat, I was successful, thinner and had better fashion sense. And then I ran into another high school acquaintance. But during the second awkward conversation of the day, it was the yellow coat that had me embarrassed. This acquaintance was not someone I wanted to show off to. I didnt need to prove anything to her. I thought of her as an equal, but that damn coat made me feel like an imposter. I wanted to shout, Im still me! I havent changed! Im not more successful than you, nor am I thinner or with better fashion sense! I am just a stupid kid with a stupid coat.

The lesson, in a nutshell, is that you shouldnt try to be anything. Just be yourself. And you should feel comfortable just being your disheveled, staticky self. But it isnt always that easy. The problem with this philosophy is that I really like my yellow coat! I like how it makes me feel. Stylish, elegantthese are not words I usually use to describe myself. Is it wrong to want to feel a little unlike your normal self? I dont think so.

I suppose the easiest answer is just to avoid the situation entirely. Stay in Boston, wear whatever you want here because no one will challenge whatever image you put on. When no one knows you, you can be whoever you want, even if its a different person everyday. But what happens when its time to go home, where everyone already has an image of you? What if you no longer fit that image? What if it was wrong all along?

So what, should we never return home? Never run the risk of bumping into those people we are dying to impress or those people that make us embarrassed that weve changed? I think it is cowardly to stay away. The conversations may be awkward, and I may never be wearing the right thing at the right time, but I refuse to surrender my hometown. And besides, perhaps we dont give old acquaintances enough credit. Maybe they can accept our new selves. Maybe they dont even notice.

When it all comes down to it, we are who we are. Regardless of whatever it is we are, we will always be ourselves, no matter what we are wearing. And besides, we have plenty of time before our 10 year reunions to find the perfect outfit and do breathing exercises.