I was given the lovely opportunity to have a spot for a day on the Upton Daily – I wrote on my feelings as my class and I begin to pack up and leave our hometown.

You can see the original post on Upton Daily here.

What We Leave Behind

I guess when I think of Upton, my mind sort of wraps itself around the idea of it like a child would wrap his arms around a teddy bear. It’s always been something soft to fall back on, a simple, fuzzy comfort that I never quite put into storage. I’m not saying it’s perfect – I think it could use some mental expansion in some departments, like any other small town – but everything has its faults, and in this case, Upton’s faults don’t even begin to compare to its strengths. It’s poetic, everything about it, and I never quite grasped how lucky I’ve been to grow up here (until now, as the countdown to college begins). I’m using this little entry to kind of reflect on that, seeing as I, along with the rest of the Class of 2013, am pretty much at the end of my rope here. Graduation was a glorious equalizer that counteracted every social issue in high school, in middle school, in every bad day, in every tough moment, because it left us in the same position; we’re all leaving everything we’re familiar with behind for something new. And that’s extremely refreshing in a paradoxically bitter way.

As we look forward to college, we’re leaving behind about two stoplights and trading them in for a permanent green GO signal. From here, on, we’re free, we’re bold, we speed up as the light turns yellow and we never slow down.

But at one of these stoplights, I used to take a delayed left and enter my high school grounds – as a student there. At one of these stoplights, my friends and I did a Chinese fire drill that made my friend literally wet her pants. At one of these stoplights, my dad and I sized up possible first cars at the BP gas station. At these stoplights, on beautiful, dusky summer nights, I used to keep my foot on the break a little too long and listen to Upton’s late night silence, glancing out of the sunroof at the stars. Aren’t some of these moments things to slow down for?

As we look forward to college, we’re leaving behind pocked and patched side streets and trading them in for one continuous straightaway – sure, there might be bumps along the road, but if we want to get where we’re going, we have to drive forward without looking back.

But on these side streets, my little Subaru would slide and skip around as the road would pan out in front of me looking like a ripped and remade pair of jeans. On these side streets, my First Real Boyfriend would bike in the dark to my house so we could be together for a few hours. On these side streets, I would train for field hockey, one of the things that kept me sane during school. On these side streets, I would find that my tire was flatted to the point where it was practically flapping in the wind before I would try and fail to change it by myself (read:”Hi Dad, what are you doing right now?”). Aren’t some of these moments things to look back for?

As we look forward to college, we’re leaving behind a couple of expansive hay fields and trading them in for a big, beautiful, wide open world and endless opportunities.

But in one of these fields, a couple girlfriends and I ran around with glow sticks wrapped around our heads and made a night out of it. In one of these fields, a nighttime adventure turned into manhunt ended up being a game of hiding from cars driving by. In one of these fields, my Second Real Boyfriend and I put a blanket down and watched the sky. In these fields, mist has risen, flowers have bloomed, grass has swayed, and snow has settled. Aren’t these moments things to shrink your world for?

Here in Upton, I’m leaving behind best friends with beautiful hearts and questionable morals. I’m leaving behind places that carry a lot of memory triggers, the kind of holes and hollows that make you say “Remember when?” I’m leaving behind rainy days full of ugly gray tears and sunny days full of belly laughs. I’m leaving behind a house that I used to crawl on top of to try to touch the milky way and schools with between-class secrets and honor roll pride. I’m leaving behind a teenager’s dreams and a young girl’s insecurities. I’m leaving behind surprise celebrations and quiet, earnest talks. There are things Upton knows that no one else will ever know, not even me.

Upton holds a lot of me, of us. It holds a lot of our innocence. I lost and gained everything I have or don’t have today in this town. So yes, we’re leaving behind a huge chunk of our lives. But I like to think that I’ll be able to take things I’ve learned here with me to wherever I end up.

I heard this quote once, and it read “You can never go home again.” The speaker is basically saying that it’s impossible for change NOT to occur, that things will be different, no matter how long you’ve been gone. I heard it a couple years ago, and I’m still unsure of whether or not that change occurs in the place a person is leaving, or in the actual person himself. I’m not going to pretend that Upton is impervious to change, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m going to stay the same. But when I come back maybe 10 or 20 years from now, after college/grad school is over, after multiple Christmas breaks back home and travel abroad, maybe after I’ve started a family and settled down, or if I’m still figuring it out and looking for a place to bring me back to Earth and help me focus, I’ll bring my car to one of the (maybe more than two) stoplights in town, and sit there just a little too long and listen to Upton’s late night silence. I’ll walk a (maybe repaved) side street and hear the gravel crunch beneath my shoes. I’ll drive by the (maybe now-developed) fields and watch summer fireflies flit between grasses and leaves. I’ll grab a coffee from The Bean* and sit on the gross-yet-pretty Kiwanis Beach shore. It won’t ever be the same, that’s for sure. The people I met here and the experiences I had here were specific to their moments and won’t ever repeat themselves. But in these moments, in these quiet reflections, I’ll find what really first captured my heart. And I’ll know I’ve finally come home again.

*In complete seriousness, the only way my class at Nipmuc Regional actually functioned was because they got a Jumbo Iced Whatever from The Little Coffee Bean every day before school. Where I’m going, they barely have Dunkin’ Donuts. My point is, in no other place would kids like us be able to walk into an almost-always-busy breakfast joint and have the employees know our names and our families personally. Out of everything that I hold dear, The Little Coffee Bean is right up there, next to my family and voting rights – it would be unfair not to mention it, seeing as it is the sole reason I gained (completely-worth-it) weight in high school.