Sunday, October 9, 2011

Five Years and Counting - Homecoming to Happiness

They say you can't go home again. Well last week, I did and there's nothing like a reunion to make you feel proud, blessed and happy of where you are in life. This is my first ever one since I'm not sure I'll have one for my high school (10 years this summer? Sheesh.) My 5-year college reunion was a great, weird experience that was an old man moment while dipping in the fountain of youth.

I was already excited the week before when I ran into one of my closest college peeps to celebrate her birthday. Not only did we have a blast in Costa Mesa, but I got to meet another fellow USD alum - someone whose reputation preceded her long before we met. We swapped stories about fighting the administration and also working with our different multicultural organizations. It was a great set up for homecoming

(Sidenote, the bar played Purple Rain on one of the screens. Throw in a brief 30-minute DJ set with some great hip hop and that was a win beyond words!)

I made the drive bumping the new Blink-182 CD and +44's debut to get in the San Diego mood. Soon as I hit campus, I met up with one of my bros to hit up the tailgate. The biggest jolt was running into a friend of an ex who said "Happy 5th year homecoming". It was jarring but funny cause I felt old and proud at the same time.

But it wasn't as jarring as seeing the new United Front Multicultural Center. The center where I spent so much time being involved with the Black Student Union was now a sprawling office with several TV's and bigger desks. It was nice but it felt different. I missed the mural (above) that spread out along the side wall which welcomed you and let you know the tight knit minority community was strong. The old building is now a meeting room and I'm sure some new kids are wondering what this huge mural is. That could take some getting used to believing.

It felt good going to Torero Stadium and seeing the alma mater put up a shutout on Davidson. I wish I could've bought a jersey but keeping a tight budget does that to you. During halftime, I walked in the basketball gym to get refreshments and it hit me that it was the 1st time I had been in there since graduation. It felt eerily quiet so I walked around and as I was taking pictures, I thought about the feeling of joy I had in there. Thought about Mom and my Uncle cheering me on from the side. Not gonna lie, I almost cried.

All of that set up for the night - a reunion event at Sandbar at Mission Beach. I had never been there before even though it was a regular hangout for USD peeps. I was partial to Pacific Beach Bar and Grill for their dance floor and bigger vibe. But for one night, I did something different and it paid off.

I saw folks I hadn't seen in ages. Ran into a guy who I knew from before school when we both attended the same student leadership retreat in HS. Took a picture with my sophomore and junior year roommates and reflected with folks over dorm stories and where we were. The best moment came when I ran into my freshman year roommate DJ. I haven't spoken to him in 5 years but it was just like old times when we got together.

Freshman year was crazy because not only did I have to deal with a crazy hall, I had two crazy roommates who were a non-stop party. I'm talking wrestling in the room, drunken shenanigans, intense debates and exposure to good reggae/country. Somehow I survived it being the quiet man but as time went on, I loved those guys. Some of the best times I had came in that room. So to see DJ again after 5 years was awesome.

I didn't want to leave and thanks to DJ pulling one more stunt out of his hat, my belt became an unofficial limbo pole and we had half the bar going underneath. That's the Maher Hall craziness I remember well!

At one point, I was posted on the wall listening to Biggie's "Juicy". I stood there nodding and the words just sank in. I came to school dreaming big as a wide-eyed freshman and 9 years later, I've come a long way. I grew up a lot in those 4 years and even more in the 5 years since. It was a perfect song to make me feel proud and I almost want to shed a tear like dang. I may not be where I wanna be but I'm in a pretty good spot.

The boy who left to San Diego optimistic came home mature and grateful to feel the love, give love and share in the growth of others. A classmate said it best. San Diego is a happy place. Everytime I go back there, I smile because the city makes me. She comforted me after the death of my uncle, has inspired me after several vacations and given me renewed passion. Being back down memory lane was a wonderful experience.

L.A. is home but San Diego is my heart. I'm grateful to everyone at my school and city who helped nurture me. You can go home again and it felt better than I thought.

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