I’ll admit it: I'd been holding back.
I’d been holding back at college. Knowing my best friends were still going to be there when I went home kept me from putting myself out there.
I was restrained by my comfort zone, even though it was 1,000 miles away.
School was good, fun and challenging. I was content.
But as great as my first semester of college was, there’s no doubt I was looking forward to going home.
Yet, at the same time, I was far from prepared.
On some level, I believed leaving home was like pressing the pause button.
While I hit the library, edited my umpteenth paper and went to practice, home remained static.
People didn't age. Things didn’t change.
I would return to the same town I left with not a brick out of place. I would pick up right where I left off.
In some respects, my theory held true.
The general feeling of my hometown was familiar, warm and welcoming.
The eatery down the street made everything I loved, my high school was still home to my favorite teachers and coaches and my friends’ houses were as familiar as ever.
What slipped my mind, however, was the fact that I wasn’t the only one who had gone off to college.
Everyone I’d grown up with had gone their separate ways.
Now, we were back for the holidays. But just as four months away had changed me, it had altered the people I’d grown up with.
Although the age of social media allowed us to stay in touch, it wasn’t the same.
Looking back, this was only appropriate.
After all, we no longer spent six to seven hours a day in class together. Weekends no longer consisted of entertaining each other with weird antics and quirks.
Our lives -- which once intersected at numerous points -- were now connected by threads of memories and long-distance friendships.
Sure, the best friendships can withstand any distance, but there’s bound to be some deterioration when your day-to-day lives no longer involve the same people, places or things.
It was this deterioration that I failed to anticipate.
Obviously, we’d all made new friends.
Being at different colleges ensured varying experiences, but just like with my hometown, I had expected to come home to the same people with not a hair out of place.
But like so many things in life, getting back together with my old squad didn’t resemble the things we had dreamed about all those years ago.
The fact was, college changed us.
It wasn't in a good way or a bad way: We were simply different.
Conversations revolved around how our colleges were “alike,” what we did with our new friends and how different college was from high school.
But no matter how many similarities we found, there was always an underlying feeling of distance.
We were not the same girls who vowed to keep in constant contact. We were not the same seniors who had walked at graduation.
We were not the same incoming college freshmen who had left home teary-eyed as we said goodbye.
We were not the same people.
It’s a fact I’m still wrapping my head around, but it’s also a fact I’m learning to accept.
Change is inevitable, and that’s OK.
I can’t expect people to remain their 18-year-old selves forever. If they did, I’d be a little concerned.
As hard as it is to say goodbye to the people in my pictures, I have faith that no matter who they become, the best parts of them -- the parts I love the most -- will always remain.
So although our relationships may have shifted and transitioned along with this stage in our lives, going home taught me an important lesson.
People change, and expecting others to remain the same for the sake of your comfort zone is unreasonable.
The friends I grew up with are becoming greater people.
I just might not be there to witness it.