This weekend I took a trip to Northfield, the town of my college years. It’s not a long trip — less than an hour from my apartment in Minneapolis. But considering how much my life has changed in the months since graduation, the distance can feel considerably farther. Revisiting a place can be jarring, even if you haven’t been gone for very long. What follows is a collection of moments from my trip, some disconcerting and some downright awesome.
As I drive through town, I expect to see my classmates at every turn. It’s hard to imagine them existing in Boston and London and Washington D.C. and Japan instead of here.
The building that used to be a Wendy’s has been converted to an Asian restaurant called Tokyo Grill.
I eat a quick dinner at the Arby’s where I always stopped before driving home at the beginning of school breaks. The cashier spells my name “Cortney” on the receipt. A valiant effort, I decide.
I find a signed copy of The Fault in Our Stars at Target. In purple Sharpie at that, which Nerdfighters will know is rarer than green Sharpie. (No Hanklerfish though.) A guy sees me stroke the signature with one finger and gives me a rather sympathetic look.
Talk about surreal. I buy stickers at my college Target for the teaching job that I never would have anticipated having. Life is nothing if not surprising.
I stop at Blue Monday for a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. I don’t like coffee, but I love hanging out in coffee shops. There are two or three Carleton students with headphones and laptops, probably doing work early so that they can go out later. I get the ideal seat by the window. A year ago I would have felt awkward being here alone on a Saturday night. Now I want to see, and I don’t mind being seen.
I go to the Contented Cow with my old roommate Katie. The Cow remains my favorite bar on the planet. The bartender recognizes me, which is sweet, and I see a guy who used to be in a band with my friend Miki. Maybe not so much has changed.
I feel grateful to have spent four years in such a lovely town. I feel grateful for the friends who let me sleep in their extra room. And I feel grateful for where post-college life has taken me.