The Bonds We Build

To whoever is reading this: I’m going to be completely honest. This is my fourth attempt at writing this column. My brain feels fried and I’m going to blame it on the fact that all of my professors are bombarding my fellow classmates and I with endless assignments, projects and tests, and I’m positive that I am not alone in this.

But with that being said, the end of the spring semester is quickly approaching. Everyone, professors included, is anticipating summertime and being free from responsibility at last. I feel like the first two years of my college career flew by, and now I’m practically half way done.

I’ve always been a person who anticipates the future too much. I’ve always wondered how things might turn out — who I’ll still be friends with, what career path I’ll choose, where I’ll be living, if I’ll be happy, if I’ll be as successful as I want to be.

Everyone has that inherent curiosity about what the future holds, but I feel that this curiosity was ingrained in me at a very young age because in my family, I was always the youngest. I have no siblings, but I grew up alongside my cousins, with whom I share a large age gap.

I felt closest with my cousins Hallie and Pam. I spent afternoons at their Dix Hills home, going in their pool and playing hide-and-seek despite the fact that they were 12 and 15 years older than me, respectively. I always wanted to know what their lives were like. I would even go so far as to say I wanted to be just like them when I grew up.

Hallie was going to NYU, so for most of my childhood, I told myself that I wanted to go to NYU. Hallie played volleyball, so I wanted to play volleyball. Hallie and Pam were graduating with teaching degrees, so I dreamed about being a teacher one day, too.

And as far back as my memory can go, Hallie and Pam’s boyfriends – Ryan and Dave — were always in the picture as well. Because of this, I’ve always considered them family. When I found out that Ryan was in a band, called Stage,  I thought it was the coolest thing. Even as a little kid, I loved music. And when I was six years old, Ryan featured my little friends and I at the end of one of Stage’s songs, “Country Bleeding,” where we repeated the phrase, “We are ready,” over and over again — a tribute to those who had lost their lives in 9/11 and to those who would soon after go off to war.

I knew that Stage meant a lot to Ryan and Hallie, but I never knew how much the band meant to other people.

Flash forward to this past Saturday, March 21, 2015. Hallie and Pam invited me to a Stage reunion show in the city. The show was programmed to start at 11 p.m. with Stage as the openers. It was 10:45 p.m. and we were in heavy traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge. Subway trains kept passing by: the J train, then the M train. We rushed to find parking and salvaged a spot a few blocks away from the venue at 217 E Houston St.: the Mercury Lounge.

Walking into that tiny venue was like walking into a Half Hollow Hills high school reunion. My cousins knew just about everyone there. Best friends from high school would go up to them and they would ask each other questions about how much their lives had changed since they last saw each other.

How were their husbands and wives? Were they still working the same jobs? They heard that so-and-so just had a baby and congratulations were in order. They caught up and reminisced about their high school and college days, when life was different and when they didn’t have a care in the world, quite frankly.

Stage brought together this entire community of people — a room full of ex-teens who at one point in their lives had no idea who they would have been married to, what they would name their first born child, what job they’d get settled into, or simply how their lives would play out.

After years of not talking to each other, it seemed as though the relationships between all of these people in this small, compact room hadn’t really changed much. They were still the same people they were in high school — they just had real jobs and real responsibilities now.

Being an outsider immersed in a sea of people, reminiscing about their former selves, I realized how genuine that kind of bond is. I kept feeling that I want to have that. It’s weird to think about how much your life can change and how you can get so disconnected from people who once knew you inside and out — and who truthfully, probably still do, because there is no one who knows you better than those you grew up with.

Stage brought back the songs of this community’s youth. That 45-minute set brought back heartache and memories and old versions of themselves that they might have forgotten about for a little while. That set let them escape from the responsibilities of their adult lives and allowed them to embrace their teenage years again.

When you’re young and in high school and college, it’s hard to notice that the relationships you build with the people around you carry so much value. It’s not until years later that you realize the worth of the bonds you used to share with these people who were always just as scared as you might have been.

No one wants to admit their nervous curiosity, or the fact that maybe they’re scared about what the world has to offer. But the fact of the matter is that everything is pretty uncertain, and you just have to roll with the punches. And when you come face-to-face with old friends, you know that the bonds you once shared will inevitably come rushing back.