Goodbye, old friend

    Graphic by Nick Castele / North by Northwestern.

    This past spring break I had to say goodbye to an old friend of mine. I stepped off my train and walked through the Harrisburg station with my old Minor Threat hoodie in my left hand, dragging a bit on the ground behind me. I walked through the station doors and saw my dad in the parking lot with a smile on his face coming over to collect me. He gave me a hug, asked how my trip was, bent over to get my suitcase for me and stopped when he saw the sweatshirt spilling over my left arm. “You still have that old thing?”

    It’s a fair question. That hoodie has got to be about seven years old by now. When I told my friends my idea for this piece, they couldn’t believe that I had thrown it away. They were dumbfounded. One of them reached out and felt the plain Eddie Bauer replacement zip-up I was wearing and just shook his head in disappointment. It was like I had thrown out of part of who I was.

    My mom had been trying to convince me to get rid of it for years now. “We’ll get you a new one,” she would tell me each time I threw it in the laundry bin. I actually did almost leave it at home when moving to college, thinking I could use the opportunity to reinvent myself like every post-high school student does upon entering the real world, but decided it would add more to my character and desperately-needed college “individuality” than leaving it at home would.

    By March of this year, near-daily use over a seven-year period had created two rather large holes at the bottom right and top left on the front, but I was still hesitant to throw it away. I jokingly told people I’d throw it away when the two holes met in the middle. It was faded, discolored and horribly stretched out of shape after years of hard use and harder washings. When North by Northwestern painted the rock, I got purple paint all over the front of the hoodie. Someone said, “at least it’ll be easier to throw away now,” but I disagreed — the newfound paint meant the sweatshirt had even more personality and life than before.

    The first weekend of spring break was my old high school’s spring musical. My friends and I were all theater geeks in high school, so a bunch of people came home that weekend to see the show and we all got together afterwards to hang out like old times. We were all nostalgic afterward and reminisced about our senior musical, Peter Pan. We talked about how much fun it was and how much we missed it. We retold our favorite stories and reveled in our memories.

    Some things had changed, though. We didn’t remember the stories perfectly — there would be gaps where none of us remembered what happened, or we would tell a fabricated version of the story we had changed in our minds over the past two years. We told old inside jokes that weren’t funny anymore. The group dynamics were different. We were all different people, slightly. School had changed us. We had all reinvented ourselves a little away at college — it’s sort of standard operating procedure.

    Soon there was a strange sort of lull in the already forced conversation. I let my self-consciousness get the better of me and asked if we had changed at all in college. One of my friends sat up in his seat a little, squared his shoulders and said he didn’t think we had “changed” as much as “been refined.” He likened the first year out of the nest to a lens, refracting and warping and refining what was already there.

    We didn’t need to remind each other of who we used to be. I don’t consider myself a “punk” anymore, and I gave up straightedge a while ago, but Minor Threat still comes on shuffle on the way to class. We don’t need to cling to ratty, seven year old sweatshirts to remind ourselves of who we are or where we came from. It’s inherent inside us, and inextricable from ourselves. Besides, it’s getting to be too warm for hoodies. Summer’s just around the corner.


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