If It’s True You Can’t Go Home Again, Does It Matter If You Get Close Enough To Knock On The Door?

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Everyone on earth yearns to connect with someone, to find meaning in the moment and value beyond the day-to-day. Unless you’re that dude wearing yellow crocs and a vacant stare trolling up and down the street. If that’s the case and all you want is a Butterfinger and a ride on your pet unicorn so you can time travel through a space portal and enter the third dimension? I’m not talking to you, so feel free to jump the cracks in the sidewalk all the way to crazy and ignore this post.

Charlie Sheen. Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from a nicely padded, white cell. Image via celebrityhealthcare24.com

Assuming you’re sane, curious, and reasonably interested in what life’s all about, the question becomes a little more relevant.

Twenty-four years ago, I fluttered off to college wearing a Laura Ashley jumpsuit and gravity-defying bangs. Physical evidence proves that I came of age in an era of hideous fashion. So what if I longed for a pair of blue polka-dotted J. Crew shorts four times the size of my waist, a button-down shirt straight from my dad’s closet, shoulder pads, and a fake tan? Don’t judge me. It was a sign of the times.

Dear Stacie, Laura Ingalls Wilder wants her housecoat back.

A more important marker of that period though, was the ease with which I maneuvered life. The only things I worried about then were grades and my checking account, because bottoming out in either meant an unwanted call from Mom. As long as I maintained a healthy balance, I was free to test my fake I.D. at every bar in town, sleep through an 8:00 a.m. Victorian Poetry class the next day, head to Bagel Deli for a late lunch, and start the cycle anew. I didn’t appreciate the value of doing absolutely anything I wanted every single day without encumbrances or constraints, because it was the only language I knew how to speak.

Why go to class when you can pass out fully clothed with your besties instead?

Fast forward two decades plus, and things look a lot different. My world is now colored in deeper hues, painted from a time worn palette, and buffered by the tiny yet significant details relevant to growing up. Things don’t look as simple as they did back then, but to compare a black and white charcoal drawing to an oil-on-canvas piece created in the dark with a palette knife doesn’t make any sense. They aren’t even close to the same thing.

Deep thoughts at our twenty-year reunion as we debate the long-term effects of botox, chemical peels, and whether or not hormone injections from baby giraffes is an ethical way to battle sagging skin.

What I failed to understand in my haze of studying, partying, and not enough sleep, was that college was never meant to be a destination, just a rest stop off the side of the road to fuel up with the necessary caffeine and carbs to make it to whatever comes next. If I lived in a bubble back then, today I exist in the shadow of the sun, often rising and sometimes fading, but always growing under the heat of filtered light tinged in infinitely more interesting shades.

Can true enlightenment really be found at the bottom of a champagne bottle? My twenty-one year-old self says “Hell yes!”

This past weekend, I took a step back in time to my twenty-year college reunion, just to check out the view. What I found once I’d settled in and looked around, was that while the campus landscape has changed a little over the years, the structure is the same. Like a stalactite. Or the ocean. Like me. Or you.

So the question remains, if you can’t really go home again, can you at least get close enough to knock on the door? And if life’s about the journey, what do you want to find when you get to the other side?

What would you do if you found this on the other side of the door?

Twenty Year College Reunion Observation and Etiquette Guide

1. We may be older and wiser, but we still make stupid mistakes.

2. Although modern medicine has advanced dramatically since 1988, hair plugs have not. So don’t go there. Ever. It will never be an attractive alternative to a shiny dome.

3. If you’ve come back to college looking for the One Who Got Away, reconsider. The person you were then and the one you’ve become today share an important trait. You’re both the product of free will. Back then, you each made conscious decisions that put you on different paths, so keep that ring on your finger and your mouth shut.

4. Party pics trump viral pics.

5. Skip the room temperature, keg-flavored Keystone Light in favor of a Maker’s over ice. Corporate domination, siphoning unnoticed cash from the family checking account, or both have earned you the golden ticket to a sweet buzz.

6. Memories are as clear or fuzzy as the glasses you see them through.

7. You aren’t a better dancer at 2:00 a.m. and you never were.

8. If you refuse to listen to #3, then please consider wearing Spanx. There’s no better deterrent to what will become a regrettable decision than the modern-day equivalent of scuba-inspired latex lingerie.

9. Frat house stalking is a lot more rewarding than Facebook stalking. Not that I’d know.

10. Hand sanitizer is now more important than the buddy system when it comes to going to the bathroom at any local bar.

11. Don’t be afraid to replace what you’ve lost in elasticity with filler. A little goes a long way.

12. Grab-a-dates trump Match.com.

13. Today’s college kids don’t look younger than we did; their apparent toehold on the fountain of youth is just the blurry aftermath of your Lasik eye surgery wearing off.

14. If you’ve ignored items 3 and 7, and you’re still trolling Facebook for the One Who Got Away, don’t go to your college reunion and fire up to Journey’s Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ unless you’ve got a raging case of halitosis. And adult back acne. And a lazy eye.

15. Mystery trumps technology.

16. Don’t do shots with a kid who was born the year you graduated from college, in fact, don’t do anything with a kid who was born the year you graduated from college.

17. Female hormones rage with as much intensity at 42 as they did at 22…they’re just a lot more unpredictable.

18. Remember that Sangria you drank from the Delt’s bathtub at your first frat party freshman year? No amount of recreational Prozac can overcome the recurring visual of what was really floating at the top of that cup.

19. And if you refuse to listen to items 3, 7, and 14? Understand that the grass isn’t any greener on the other side of the space-time continuum-inspired fence. It just looks that way because there’s no mortgage, demanding boss, and needy kids to kill the color. Weeds tend to suddenly appear where you least expect them though, so do yourself a favor and tend your own garden instead of trying to plant a new one.

20. Your college friends are your besties for life, and they’ll always have your back, even when you’re sweating through your shirt.

Photo Gallery, ‘Cause Sorority Chics Love Looking at Pictures of Themselves

Litehouse 1992

Litehouse today.

Activewear 1990 (notice the "dad" shorts and XXL t-shirts)

Activewear 1992 (notice the “dad” shorts, XXL t-shirts on the girls and half-shirts on the token dudes).

Activewear today (this picture was taken sans make-up after a four-hour Tough Mudder/Crossfit/P90X stroll through campus).

1992

2012

1992

2012

1992

2012

1992

2012

87 responses »

  1. I think it would be only gallant to point out that the 2012 versions of you all are waaaaay sexier.

    I, er, hope that helps.

    Speaking as a man who “celebrated” his 55th birthday this week, I note I can now officially claim my superannuation. What the f***?

    Join me in a marathon tequila lip, sip, suck session? Cmon, girls, you know it makes sense.

  2. Gemini girl,
    How Le Clown would have liked to attend your college, or whatever you call your over priced educational institutions in the US of A. A hoot and a holler… Or so it seems.
    Le Clown

    • Dear Clown,
      I’ve always been under the impression that Canadians cease higher education at high school. Thank you for proving me right. Assuming that you’re allowed to leave the country, you can hop on down to the US of A any time you’d like to check out the coed view. But beware, American girls don’t dig face painters, can be a bit fickle, and expect to be lavished with expensive gifts pretty much 24/7.
      GG

  3. Oowee, Stacie, that first picture had me wondering if you were going to reveal a Sister Wives episode from your past?
    Good-looking group of pals you have there; glad you made it through the first twenty. And I toast to your next twenty 😉

    • You make a good point, Nikki. Sorority sisters ARE kind of like sister wives, although if any of us even looked at another sister’s boyfriend all hell would break loose, so on second thought, maybe not so much. Thanks for the toast, right back ‘atcha!

  4. Very sweet Stacie! Loved this! And sadly (or not!?!?!?) I have all of those same party pics….ugly outfits, big bangs… in my yellowed, peeling photo albums in my basement!

    • These pics came straight from the basement too. Essa was flipping through the albums as I was trying to decide which ones to use and said, “Mom, is that you? You look so OLD school!” Thanks for the comment, Amy. Hope you’re having a great summer!

  5. Wonderful read. Glad to see a new post from you! Your writing always delights.

    I’m impressed you went to a reunion. I never have done so, always happy to leave the past where it is, I guess. But I do remember those hideous flower dresses, and although I couldn’t afford a Laura Ashley, I had some terrible Target rip-off. Oh, just horrible. And I didn’t even like wearing dresses.

    I think you’re spot on in saying the grass is never greener; it just seems that way. People who remember those words are likely to have healthier relationships and lives in general.

    • Carrie,
      As you know, writing is tinged with experience, whether it’s mine, a friend’s, a family member’s…it all adds up. Writing regular posts + three kids at home from school hasn’t worked lately, so I appreciate your sweet “glad you’re back” comment. Looking forward to reading more of your work, as always!
      Stacie

      • Oh, believe me, I understand. It’s such a joy having the young ‘uns around, isn’t it? When does school start up again?…

  6. Stacie – I originally posted this on FB, but thought it was better to put it here… You can’t go home again, but it was nice to visit for 36 hours. Perfectly stated blog. Thanks for summing it up perfectly. It sounds like Litehouse was having the same conversations as Melee last weekend. What was up with the Men’s XL Umbro shorts, anyway? Great seeing everyone healthy and happy. Until our 25th…

    • LC,
      You know, the only negative to hanging with the sistas so much is the time I didn’t get to spend with people like you, who happened to be in a different sorority. I think there’s a big group of us who are so like-minded it’s scary. I wish we could have had that collective talk way into the night as a big group, and you’re right, the 36 hour drop-in was awesome. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, LMK if you’re ever in CO and we’ll grab a cocktail and continue the discussion!
      Stacie

  7. What a fun birthday month you have had! What an AWESOME post…it should SO be Freshly Pressed, seriously. I wish more women over 40 would heed the advice of the grass being the same frickin’ color! Everywhere!!!! That ‘dreamy’ guy has bad habits, dirty laundry, kids an ex and bills!
    So many people these days are chucking a bunch of hard work and effort on the PAST dream that never happened b/c it was NOT supposed to!!!

    Fantastic post Stac….you are all SO beautiful!!!! STIl radiant and lovely…b/c you are that from the inside out, not b/c of fillers and make up!

    BIg ol’ birthday hugs to you (belated)!!! AmberLena

    • Amber,
      You are so good to me. Thanks for the beautiful, insightful comment…you’ve made my day. Love your positive, thoughtful comments, it’s great to “see” you again!
      Stacie

    • By asserting that the grass is the same frigging colour everywhere you are, of course, savaging the hopes of a million and one potential lotharios. There’s a limit, girls. Leave us all some fantasies. On this side of the divide we all know you secretly lust for a mindless dalliance with a middle aged, balding, overweight guy with a ridiculously age-inappropriate car and ear hair. At least we know which wine to order. And can hold a conversation. And don’t we all look great after a few good glasses of shiraz? No? Have another …

    • Kellie,
      Totally drawing a blank. Who is Nancy Brouhard? We’re coming to Chicago this summer so I hope, hope, hope you guys are around. Thanks for reading. Love and miss you!
      Stacie

      • We will make a point to be around – when are you coming to town?

        Nancy is a girl that I went to grade school, high school & college with… and I’d be willing to bet money that she is the girl on the far left side of the “Laura Ashley” photo.

      • Still trying to figure out our plan. I’ll let you know when we do! As for the girl on the left, not Nancy. She must have a twin running around out there somwhere!

      • Excited at the prospect of seeing you guys this summer! I’m going to pull out some old photos to show you “the twin” :o)

  8. Great read, Stacie! Sounds like you have a splendid time at your 20th. I never made it to one of those… moved colleges too many times and I don’t have that group of oldies to compare wrinkles (or fillers) with 😦 I kind of regret that but whatareyagonnado? I had a weird dream last night that Cristy and I were meeting you at your house! Odd how it feels like I ‘know’ some of my favorite blogger/besties!

    • Laura,
      I think it was a premonition. I would LOVE to hang with you and Cristy in CO, or anywhere for that matter. We would talk for hours on end, and prove definitively that blogging besties are the real deal!
      Great to hear from you,
      Stacie

  9. Lookin’ good, Stacie! You bring up a lot of thought-provoking questions in this post. Damn you. 😉

    A 20-year perspective on things is interesting, isn’t it. I used to think I wanted to go home again, until I realized that “home” was a time and convergents of events, not a place.

    Meanwhile you deserve some sort of epic prize for this line: “If I lived in a bubble back then, today I exist in the shadow of the sun, often rising and sometimes fading, but always growing under the heat of filtered light tinged in infinitely more interesting shades.” Love.It.

  10. I don’t know about true enlightenment coming at the bottle of a champagne bottle, but I have written some of the most profound things at the bottom of many other types of bottles. Though I learned in grad school that just because one is being profound doesn’t mean anyone understand you. 😉

  11. Love this, Stacie! Sandbar loved going back, being together, walking the same paths, pretending we’d gone back in time, touching 216 South Beech and trying (unsuccessfully) to get in, and thinking about what was, what’s changed, and all the life that’s gone on in the past 20 years. And appreciating what we had and have now and look forward to enjoying in the years to come. I think those moments of past meeting present are so striking and valuable. Not to see greener grass, but to indeed remember the sweetness that was. See you in 2017?
    Jenny (Gilbert) Rooney
    P.S. #10 and #15 are my faves.

    • Hey Jenny! So nice of you to leave such a thoughtful comment. We broke into a side door of Litehouse (well, we actually walked right in because true to 1992 form, the door wasn’t locked) and the house looked nothing less than nasty. Other than that though, I agree, it was a great walk down memory lane. 2017 sounds great…I’m sure we’ll have that much more to appreciate. =)

  12. You’re a wise woman, Chadwick. This is why you are my Blogging Bestie and my Reunion Sensei. This post was alternately cringeworthy (because I, too, loved me my Laura Ashley and crunchy, curled bangs), hilarious and thought-provoking. I pity the man who may think you are the One-Who-Got-Away…because you probably really are. For him, anyway. And by the looks of that list of yours, he wasn’t gonna get anywhere with you. This should be included with all reunion packets; perhaps you should send this to the companies that organize them.

    By the way, you and your friends still look AMAZE-BALLS. What awesome sauce have you been drinking? Is this what Maker’s Mark does for a person? Maybe I need to switch liquors.

    xo

    CCL

    • You ought to tell me what you’ve been drinking my gorgeous BB. Why don’t you come back with us the next time around? You’d fit right into the conversation, which lasted until 3:00 a.m. two nights in a row. Love ya like a sista.

  13. What a hoot, Stacie – a wise, snarky, excellent hoot. If not for the fact that I was at college in the U.P. of Michigan with four other guys for every one gal, this would be a reminiscence of my class of ’91 college days.

    I’m now a little sad, though, for all those girls at college for whom I’m the One Who Got Away…

    • Sid, You missed your chance by a thin year to go back and let them all profess their undying love! Oh well, there’s always the 25 year so keep those fires burning…and thanks for the compliments. I appreciate you stopping by!

  14. Stacie- I loved reading this and seeing the pictures. You all look so beautiful. It made me want to chant “drink a beer, drink a beer, drink a GD beer, if you can’t drink a beer like a DG can than you shouldn’t have a GD beer in your hand…” Very classy song I picked up. XXO, Elizabeth

    • How did we forget to sing that at the top of our lungs on our 2:00 a.m. walk home from Uptown? I’m sure Amanda filled you in on the state of Litehouse…there’s no way we’d let any of our children live there today. The emergency ladder your parents bought in case we needed to parachute out the attic window is still there, albeit in a rusty, crumbled mess thrown in the corner. Can’t wait to hear YOUR stories. =)

  15. Wonderful post Stacie. I haven’t been to any of my reunions (not college, but high school) and I don’t think I’m missing much. I didn’t enjoy school very much. It looks like you had wonderful friends and truthfully, you ladies look even better today then you did back then. 🙂
    P.S. Why am I not on your blog roll? 😛

    • Wendy,
      You aren’t on my blogroll because the last time I updated it was when I added Le Clown which was LIGHT years ago. Next time you check you’ll be there. And thanks for the sweet compliments, I’m hoping that as gravity takes my body down, my writing will look up. =)

  16. Not only can you go home again, skip the knocking and just let yourself in the side door! Loved the post and LOVED being with you Stace!

    And if I may, one tip from TR that should be in every reunion etiquette guide: “Be discreet in your judgment of my decline.” Ohhh, there were some zingers!!

    • Bets,

      My only wish for the weekend was that you had been there for two nights instead of one. TR’s one-line zinger could be the subject of an entire post, as could just about everything that comes out of her mouth. Lucky for us we are discreet, and not SO much in decline that we’ve started rolling out the white lies. Here’s to mostly clean living…

      ITB Sister. I love ya,
      Stac

      • Thanks for the “zinger props,” ladies!

        Here’s a tip not for the twenty-year reunion attendee, but for the college-bound: You will look back much more fondly on photos of your glory days if you forego the death-grip on your plastic cup of warm beer. Doing so will surely ameliorate some of the puffy-faced, glazed expressions so rampant in the “Befores.” Perhaps we could just chalk up the glassy eyes to youthful wide-eyed wonder, but I do so wish I had at least a few photos in which I don’t look like one of those crepy old dolls whose eyes close when you lie them down.

        PS, what in God’s name is happening with my “bosom” in that pic of Stacie and me in our 1992 formal wear???

      • Terri,

        Seeing you here reminds me of all the phantom books you’ve yet to write. How I would LOVE to grab onto your coattails for that co-author credit. Think of the fun we’d have…the money…the fame…the free swag!

        That “bosom” pic you refer to the flesh and blood visual of the classic sorority formal dance mating call. It says, “I’ve got a hotel room tonight and my super sorority sistas are willing to pack it into the lobby for you. So allow me to finally follow my mother’s advice and throw those shoulders back and stand up straight.”

        I would love to see your list for the newly minted college-bound high school senior…it would quickly become every guidance counselor’s bible.

        ITB,
        Whit

  17. My 20th is this year. I don’t think I can stomach going. Sometimes what is buried shouldn’t be dug up again. But who knows, unless you go grave robbing.
    I have no idea what that means, but that’s what came out of my thoughts about high school reunions. I guess that confirms that I shouldn’t go. 🙂

    • Ours was college, so I’ve got a few years on you. It was really fun though, as long as you can let sleeping dogs lie. Reconsider if any of your best friends will be there, otherwise, I agree. =)

  18. Stacie,

    Hard to believe a week has passed since we all headed back to Oxford. Even harder to believe 20 years has passed since we all regularly hung out Uptown. What an incredibly fun Alumni weekend – the present met up with the past as though no time had passed. Here are a few more tips for your guide: 1) Alumni still get campus parking tickets 2) Canoes only sink in college 3) Everyone in their 40’s has a unique story. Your blog made me smile! Thank you for sharing. Til we meet again, Jen Greenwood Walters

    • Jen,

      Love your additions! I wish the bar scene had felt a little less like a wedding reception. We only got to hang out for a few minutes. Let’s keep in touch…FB has it’s positives. Thanks for leaving such an awesome note.

      Stacie

  19. It’s been five years since I graduated college. I’m not sure I want to go to a reunion. I’d feel so self-conscious.
    I like the whole 1992/2012 photo assembly. Loved the list points. Especially #3. Nice touch of realism within nostalgia.

    • You’re wiser than most if you already recognize the value of #3 and you’re only five years out of school. It’s taken most of us a lot longer than that, if the lesson’s been learned at all. =/

      So the difference between your five-year and your twenty-year reunion is that you lose that sense of self-consciousness as you get older, or rather, you just don’t care what other people think anymore. My twenties were great, but now that I’m in my early 40s (gasp/gag/blah), I’m so much more self-possessed. Which is cool.

      Thanks for stopping by. You always have insightful things to say. Are you sure you’re not one of my former English Lit professors posing as a libercynic? =)

      • Lol! I wish I’d studied English Lit sometimes. I’ve always wanted to write. But growing up in a developing country (India), it was always prudent to do something in the sciences—can’t complain though, it got me to the U.S.
        As far as #3 goes, my comment on that was purely theoretical. My girlfriend and I got together in 12th grade and went to the same undergraduate school! So, we’ll go to reunions together!
        I see your point about getting more self-assured in your forties. By then you have some accomplishments and those little rivalries with friends don’t matter as much.

  20. Dear GG, I missed the whole college thing, out working in the Alberta oil patch at the time (couldn’t leave home fast enough – more on that later). However, after looking at your pics, I have to say that the 2012 versions of you and your friends are freakin’ gorgeous. No disrespect intended but you guys actually look older in some of the 1992 pics. Very sexy (2012) ladies you is. Kudos to you for point # 5, any friend of Maker’s is a friend of mine. But I disagree with point # 7, you are too a detter bancer at 2 am after 3 or 6 Maker’s. Very cool post, Gemini Girl, very cool post.

    • Hey IPUEC,
      Thanks for the sweet props. The early-90s unibrow, ill-fitting clothes, and bloated faces didn’t help our cause back then. All three should be obliterated from the history books, but as you’ve seen, photographic evidence says otherwise. Love your comments on my comments, and being a girl from Kentucky, Maker’s is near and dear to my heart. Thanks for stopping by, it’s always fun when you’re around. I need to get back to Le Clown’s site and cause some trouble. =)
      GG

    • It’s the baby giraffe hormones, I swear! But please don’t tell anyone. We have to take an annual trip down to Cabo to pick them up…not approved in the USofA, and we could get in a LOT of trouble. Thanks for the sweet comment Cakes and Shakes!

    • Lifehouse…aren’t they some, like, new-agey Christian rock band filled with prepubescent boys? Oh wait, that’s Hanson. My bad. Not up on my bible music. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and for all the likes…you made my day!

  21. from looking at your 2012 pictures I would have thought that you were too young to have gone to college at Little House on the Prairie. This is great Stacie and good call on the Makers.

  22. never went to college and never done the bathfull thingy but i relate………at 45 i just cant imagine taking acid everyday for weeks on end…………i have no desire to alter my consciousness that radically anymore………………i think i would die if i did anything like that now……….im happy,content and ivegot two little girls who adore and depend on me and they have given me my only and final purpose in life….. ive nothing more to prove to anyone……great feeling.. im free at last….. all is as it should be despite all the crazy things in the past…….

  23. “If I lived in a bubble back then, today I exist in the shadow of the sun, often rising and sometimes fading, but always growing under the heat of filtered light tinged in infinitely more interesting shades.”

    You’re a wise woman, Stacie Chadwick. And an incredible writer.

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