It’s totally weird living in the city where I grew up. I know for a lot of people it’s completely normal, even expected, to return home after college. Or never to leave at all. Thing is, I didn’t anticipate coming back to Dallas. When I left, I intended to leave for good. I shed my skin and continued on to restart my life somewhere else.
Now that I’m living here again seven years after I left, I feel like Dallas is haunted. The place is filled with ghosts. Not necessarily evil ones. Some are friendly, some are sad. But they’re all over. Constant reminders of who I used to be.
And it’s not like the entire city is saturated with these ghosts. They only haunt the places that I frequented or where certain events occurred. I see the teenage ghost of my quirky, curly haired friend when I’m at that bar on Inwood because it stands next to the restaurant where she introduced sushi to me. When I’m near the Blue Mesa across from Northpark, I see a couple of my friends, the girls who could destroy a bowl of sweet potato chips and salsa in minutes. Every time I drive by the corner of 75 and Walnut Hill, where a movie theater once stood, I see the ghost of the seventeen-year-old boy who tried to give me my first kiss. I see him again when I’m around the intersection of Preston and Northwest Highway, blocks from his childhood house. And if I’m in Addison, especially if I’m near my high school, well that place is just crawling with ghosts.
But the one ghost that I encounter the most is the ghost of myself. I often feel that lofty-minded, determined, overzealous, callow girl following me. She’s the only one who feels omnipresent, who is persistent, who seems to demand something of me. And for the past year, I’ve battled that damn ghost of my teenage self. I hate that I feel like I owe her an explanation for why I’m back in Dallas. I hate that I feel like I let her down.
In high school I had grand visions for myself. I had no five or ten year plan, but I knew I wanted to get out of Dallas and to do something impressive, to be a success. Run off to a fancy college, excel there, maybe get a glamorous job in the art world or go to law school – who knows. My plans were unspecific, but they were grand. And none of them included Dallas, because I saw it as completely unrefined and superficial. I thought there was nothing here worthy of the person I was sure I would become.
I know if eighteen-year-old Paige found out she would return to Dallas as an adult, she’d see it as a failure. So part of me is constantly arguing with her, trying to rationalize where I am now, why I came back. Trying to convince her that I’ve made the best choices I knew how and that being here does not mean I’ve failed.
But fuck it, no. I’ve finally decided to stop fighting with her.
It’s taken a while, but I realized that the thing she didn’t understand was that success isn’t measured in how fancy of a school you attend or how impressive of a job you land. So what if your life looks enviable on paper? She didn’t understand that having a truly successful life is more about the lessons you learn, the experiences you have, and most importantly, the people you love. My teenage self was unwilling to see that a life in Dallas could bring her all the success she ever wanted because she hadn’t learned what really mattered yet.
We’ve gotten to a place where we can peacefully coexist, my ghost and I. At last, she understands and appreciates everything I’ve done up to this point. It no longer feels like she’s looming over my shoulder in disappointment. And I look to her for inspiration…she is me at my most confident, however naive that blind confidence may have been. She reminds me to be fiercely motivated and to demand the best of myself, because she not only wanted to be successful, but expected she would be.
And I will be. No. I am.