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Between the Lines: Our hometowns move on while we're away

It’s a strange phenomenon, but when you go away to college, life in your hometown actually does go on.

Even now, as a junior, when I head home for a weekend, I can’t help but be surprised by the smallest tweaks to Chardon, Ohio. An office building has been erected, the brick wall around the track demolished and the road I live on repaved — and that’s not to mention the hideous red chair now adorning my family’s living room.

Perusing my Facebook Timeline, I see updates from former teachers and students who still attend Chardon High School, but it’s a bit like reading a fictional story that happens to take place in a town my imagination is eerily familiar with. It’s like when I read Harry Potter and I’m able to envision Harry, Hermione and Ron tread the halls of Hogwarts: I can see it perfectly in my mind’s eye, but it hardly feels like something that really happened.

I chat with my track coach every few months and find myself uncomfortable when I don’t recognize all the names of the people on the team. When I attended the drama club’s fall play this year, I was irked when I could only pick out three of the actors onstage. The freshmen I mentored my senior year are seniors now. The number of Facebook friends I have who still live in Chardon is slowly dwindling.

Almost nine months ago, a student walked into my high school’s cafeteria — the cafeteria I ate lunch in every day for four years — and shot and killed three of his peers. I can still recall waking up to a plethora of texts from friends and family about the shooting. I can still feel the way my stomach dropped and my muscles tensed up. I spent the day glued to a computer with my phone in hand, tirelessly absorbing any information I could.

Yet as horrifying as that day was, even as I watched images of my hometown flash across TV screens, it also felt unreal — and not in that surreal way that those who were there described the day. It felt unreal simply because I wasn’t there.

Chardon has gone on without me.

When my group of high-school friends reconvenes on breaks, there are always a few of us who missed the last gathering. We don’t get the inside jokes, we don’t have the shared stories, and we’re not in on future plans. There’s an awkward moment when you look at your old friends and realize you’re not a big part of their lives anymore. Driving back into Chardon, I feel that same gnawing awkwardness in my gut.

None of this is meant to sound arrogant. I hardly believe that the world revolves around me, or that none of the people I was close with could go on living without me.

Yet for a place that I can’t imagine my life without, it’s weird to think that it’s been able to live without me.

Nicolien Buholzer is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University and the culture editor for The Post. Email her at nb360409@ohiou.edu

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