It was an average day that I suddenly found myself in a strangely familiar place. Wednesday the 22nd of April is a day where most people are simply going about their daily routines, particularly in suburbia. But, on this day, I unexpectedly found myself headed west on 159th Street, entering the town of Homer Glen, Illinois. And, although I have not been here in nearly a decade, traveling this stretch of road brought back a flood of memories from my college years.
Homer Glen is just over an hour away from both my parents house and my University. I was never here for an extended period of time, nor did I come here on a regular basis. However, I had made several friends who were from this area, and ended up partaking in some social events here. There are plenty of other places I could go and encounter a similar amount of memories. However, this visit came unexpectedly, and on a trip where I am already visiting a plethora of places near and dear to me, from past chapters of my life. Maybe that is why the images from my past came back to me so powerfully.
Most of my memories from this place involve standard young people shit; drinking, debauchery, partying, etc. However, some of them involve some specific experiences that remind me of the way my life truly was. One summer evening, we had used a friend’s house in this area as a meeting point, as we had on several occasions, particularly in summer. We had all not see each other in around two months, which, for 20-year-olds used to being at college together all the time, seems like an eternity. As a result, we spent roughly 20 minutes taking pictures. I don’t even remember why we took so many pictures, but we did so until the one person with even less of an attention span than me finally had to put a stop to it. His exact words were “I love you guys, but we need to do something.”
Looking around, I eventually realized that I was not even really in the same place that I had remembered. At that time, the area between Orland Park and Lockport was called Homer Township. It would later be incorporated as the town of Homer Glen. Instead of the four-way stop signs I had seen throughout the area, signaled by red flashing lights in all directions, most intersections here now have full traffic signals. McDonald’s is now accompanied by a bunch of other establishments, and an extension of Interstate 355 has been built just to the west of town. So, although some of what I saw looked familiar, and brought back memories, there is not way to avoid clear evidence that this is now a completely different place than it was a decade ago.
One mistake I tend to make is to associate certain past experiences with a specific location. Periodically, I need reminders that when I think of a set of experiences from my past, I am really looking back to a “chapter” of my life, which, unfortunately, cannot be truly relived no matter how hard I try. College is a chapter of life, and one cannot return to this chapter of life by simply moving back to their college town. Even those who chose to stay in their college town enter a new chapter of their lives when they graduate, one that commonly involves either graduate school or their first “real job”.
Not only is this physical location fundamentally different from the place I had all of these experiences, but I also, unfortunately do not have the same relationship with some of the people I had these experiences with. The different physical surroundings right in front of my face serve as a clear reminder that the chapter of my life, with all of the memories that I am suddenly flashing through in my head at nearly lightning speed, is unequivocally over. AlI I can do is smile, and remember with fondness the small part of my life this place once played.
For the entire week, I have been visiting both the past and the future. We travel for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes for business, sometimes for relaxation, and sometimes for pleasure. Sometimes, we travel to places to attend specific events and visit specific people. And, while some trips are primarily about exploring places we have yet to be, and about having experiences we have yet to have, others are about places we have already been, people we already know, and experience we have already had. For me, this trip, which I will discuss more in Part 2, is turning out to be a hybrid. On this trip, I am trying as best I can to balance relaxation with activity. I am trying to visit as many people as possible, but also to have quality experiences, as opposed to simply rushing from one activity to the next. I am also, in a way, visiting both the past and the future, as I can see my life’s previous “chapters”, but also some of my life’s future “chapters” in the places I am going and the people I am seeing over the course of the week.