Nostalgic Perspective

As with many people lately, Facebook has reconnected me with people from my past. As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, these reconnections break down into groups of different periods: adulthood, college, high school, and grade school. Whereas I have kept in contact with at least a few people from each of the first three, I had largely lost contact with everyone from grade school.

Over the past few months of reconnecting with this group I’ve become reacquainted with my childhood. After graduating from our class of about 75 we split up into the handful of high schools in our neighborhood. About a dozen of us went to the Catholic all-boys high school of about 400 per class. So in addition to pretty much losing contact with the girls in the class, the size of the school meant that I lost contact with all but a handful. Then later heading off to college dwindled that down to pretty much the guy I decided to room with. So many of these people I haven’t seen in 24 years. It has brought back many memories.

But there are a few realizations that I’ve had in the past couple weeks. First, I have always had immense pride with being from Chicago and more specifically from the neighborhood where I grew up. In my mind the people I knew in high school and more importantly grade school represented ground zero for that pride. But looking back, I see how life and my own doing have resulted in having no contact with anyone from that time in grade school. For a time I still lived in the same neighborhood and saw all the changes it had undergone, but with the exception of my immediate neighbors, I lost contact with the people I knew from there. In retrospect it seems my mind has built up that time in grade school as the foundation of who I am and literally where I come from. Throughout life I have always placed much importance in where people come from. For some reason I felt it had a strong bearing on their values and character. But the truth is that as life has taken me different places and the connections via the internet have introduced me to people outside my usual means of association. Now that I stand back and look at the big picture I see that location has much much less bearing on who people become. It by no means is meant to discredit those people from my old neighborhood, but more to acknowledge the rest of the world.

The second realization is what the people from that time in grade school were really like back then. Again this is more just something that has evolved over all that time in my mind. Since the people from that time largely disappeared from my life within a couple years, there was always a bit of mystery about them for me wondering what happened to them. These were the people with whom I spent much of my formative years. So over the years I kinda built them up in my mind. The reintroduction to them via Facebook has reminded me who they really were. Just a bunch of kids like myself with differing interests and differing characters. It’s odd because the deglorification of that time has forced me to look at the other events in my life since that time. It’s like when the bright moon is missing from the night sky, you can appreciate all the other stars.

This look back has also given perspective on the path my life has taken. There have been so many events and forks in the road that have brought me to where I am today. There was a time that I said I would never leave Chicago and never live in the suburbs. My kids would grow up in the same neighborhood that I had because it made me who I am and I wanted the same for them. And I would have been happy to live that life. But life has taken me to other countries and I now live in the suburbs working in a different language, and I’m happy here too. It’s interesting to see my old classmates and see other paths my life could have taken.

Lastly, I kinda mentioned the realization that many of us from that time were different with different interests and quite possibly that is another reason why we have lost touch. Back then it was all about seeking out your identity and finding others who were similar. But it’s been over 20 years. We’ve all changed and matured to differing degrees. Priorities and interests have changed. When we get back together in person it will be about getting reacquainted and reminiscing. I’m looking forward to it.

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~ by Frank on May 3, 2009.

5 Responses to “Nostalgic Perspective”

  1. Very interesting thoughts. It’s true that there are memories that when revisited, or rather, when seen for what they were compared to the grand scheme of things, really weren’t all that spectacular after all. But there are those gems in a person’s past and even in the place once called ‘home’ that still sparkle beautifully whether in memories or in reality. It’s those gems, I feel, that is very much a part of who we are today.

    Great work Frank. I like how you think and I love your style of writing. Thanks for sharing.

    – Fin

  2. Interesting ideas Frank. I agree that the internet & travelling / living in different places definitely have an impact of who we are, but I still do think that where we grew up has a huge impact on our personal development. Perhaps it’s less about the physical space and more about the people that surround us in that city/community. But that influence impacts our experience at a time when we are very impressionable and development of your ideas and beliefs are so key. I think that experience (for better or worse) colours and to some degree defines or frames the experiences to follow. Weather you embrace where you come from or totally reject it, I still think it plays a key part in who we all become. Of course, it’s only part of the equation…the outer-directed part. The inner directed part is just as strong (if not stronger) and probably pushes us to explore new places, ideas & people, and make the decisions that lead us to live and work in a different culture/language and all other life decisions.

    FWIW, I’ve chosen to remember the dragonfly I saw outside of my kindergarten class door as being as big as my head. And just hovering quietly so the bunch of kids standing outside could see it. Now, I *know* it probably wasn’t as big as my head IRL, but that’s how I always remember it so I leave it like that in my mind. Memories like that. I think, are the reason I loved the movie Big Fish so much.

  3. “It ain’t where you from, it’s where you at.”

  4. Thanks, Fin. The gems will always be there. It’s more that I’m reminded of how the rest is “real” and not imagined.

    Suzanne: I agree about the specialness of where we grow up, but what has been on my mind lately is how I’ve been finding like-minded people from pretty much anywhere. I’m finding people with the same values here in Montreal (many of whom are transplants from elsewhere) or people via other connections on the internet with whom I share similar values. I’m not saying that I don’t share values with the people I grew up with. I’m just thinking that they are not site specific.

    Alston: It’s probably a bit of both.

  5. Recently I as having similar thoughts. There are forks in the road we select that , at the time , seem not that important but looking back have a huge impact on the direction of our lives. Some of those forks are decided for us by our parents; moving from neighborhood to suburbs, city to city, etc.. But the choices we make ourselves, what high school we attend, what friend we join, what college we select, all seem to determine who we are. Who ultimately becomes our partner and bears our children.
    I was thinking the other day how different my life would have been if I had selected Univ of Ill Chicago Circle for Architecture or Southern Illinois University for photography versus DePaul for business.
    I am very pleased with the choices made and the life I have experienced with my family and friends.

    Come to think of it, I would not have changed a thing from those forks in the road!

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