A cold night fell on a quiet city in a quiet county, in a quiet state. No one ever really thinks about Ohio, and no one ever really thinks about the tiny towns, cities, and metroplexes that make it. Almost like it never exists except to those who wander its roads and meander through the leaf-covered pavement that form its skeleton. A city everyone knows of, but never really gives much attention to.
For me – that was my hometown. Little town Ohio, snuggled under the hip of a larger, though also forgotten city – Cleveland.
It’s a tough town, a cold town, but a homey town. Like one of those places you see on yearly hallmark movies that you are convinced can’t be real – and for the most part they aren’t. But there is a little truth in those movies, especially when it comes to the small-town feel that can bring a seemingly random group of people together. None of us knowing how any of us got there, landing in this tiny spec of land on a massive ball of mud. Just knowing that we are here now, side by side, for better or worse.
I have spent my entire life here, in this town, or city if you’re bold enough to call it that. Thirty years of family, friends, career, and life all within the walls of Cleveland. Something that I never really stopped to think about, because it never really mattered. Not until I thought about just how long thirty years was, and the fact that my entire self is found here – except for those few years in Akron – which was a blast, by the way.
Turning thirty never meant much to me, it was just a number. The only time I thought about it being when I made my career goal to land a full-time gig in my tough-to-manage field by this age. A feat which I achieved at the fresh age of 26. A feat I am still proud of to this day – but that’s another story for another time.
I would see older friends and family turn the page on their twenties, some feeling upset about it, others having indifference you could only admire from a distance. And to me, it always felt like something so far off in the distance that it didn’t really matter. I was so concentrated on my creative career, my work, and things that made me happy. It never really worried me what would happen when I turned that magical age – the 2 turning to 3, more responsibility seemingly coming out of nowhere and the body beginning to fall apart. It never bothered me, and it still doesn’t. That being said, it doesn’t mean I don’t look back and think about the past, and how much of it I miss.
“If only there was a way to know you were in the ‘good old day’s’ while you were in them.” A cliche of cliches – a quote from The Office. But it’s one I think of often. I wish I knew when I was in “The Good Old Days.” However, then I realize that the good old days, if you let them, are all the days. Again, a cliche, but what’s the point in fighting them when they are true? The good old days never end if you don’t let them – an ever-present force of nature that never fades away, and always follows.
I look around my tiny town to this day and have memories flood in all the time. Remembering when my friend drank too much milk at that gas station, that street I paraded down while I was in the marching band, that park on the corner where I got stung by my first be and played baseball until the sun went down. Making me sad when I look back and think about how easy things were. But then I remember there are other places in that town as well. Memories from the next “good old days.”
The grocery store where I started my work experience as a kid, the library where I filled out endless college applications, and then later spent hours writing my graduate thesis in. Those too were good old days, just different. They didn’t hold any less meaning, they didn’t mean anything less to me – they were just… different.
And now, I still am in the good old days, and eventually I will look back at this very moment, thinking about writing these exact words by candlelight in the late evening/early morning of an unusually warm November evening. I will look back and miss this time, my family likely being larger than just us three. I will miss how “easy” I had it, how “care-free” this part of my life was. But that’s just an excuse to feel bad. There will always be something to be happy about.
Eventually my daughter will grow, talk, then walk off to college – followed by her likely siblings (the amount still to be discussed). Eventually my knees will be worn down even more than they are now – likely hurting from the years of abuse playing softball and riding bikes. Eventually my expertise will expand, my naivety falling off slowly, day by day. I will be sad, but I will force myself to remember that good things will still be on their way.
More than anything – I miss being so clueless as to how life really is. My head not holding any knowledge of how the world worked, even until recently. I’ll miss not caring – having to live with the burden of knowledge and experience. I’ll miss not having as many memories of this city, knowing there are more to be made. But I’ll never regret the days I had – because I know there are so many more to come.
Life will always be easier when you look back, because you know how the story ends. It’s scary when there are still pages left to turn. However that’s also the exciting part – that’s also the part that flies by faster than you’d ever imagine. It always seems like the mountain is taller than it really is – you’re always suddenly on the peak.
Struggles will always fade away, they never last even in memory. But the good times we have are as strong as steel – and shape hearts and minds for the rest of eternity.
In reality, I am still young, and argue I will always be just that. And that will forever make me happy.