The Older I Get, The More I Yearn For The Toxic Culture Of My Childhood

Photo: Leszek Glasner / Shutterstock
woman thinking by window

Lately, something has been bothering me. It’s been bothering me a lot.

I grew up in a very WASP-y, hoity-toity neighborhood. My childhood was one of private schools, hearing people ask which beach club (or country club) we belonged to, and having friends who owned their own yachts.

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At one point, I was expected to finish college and get a Master’s from Princeton. I walked away from all that because the toxicity it bred in me was horrific. I lay a lot of the blame for my sexual abuse, drug use, and my eventual trafficking squarely on the people who surrounded me.

When I ran off, I found more genuine people in the NYC projects. I found my friends living in abandoned warehouses, I met convicted felons who showed me more kindness than anyone at my college did, and some of my closest friends are active gutter punks.

Recently, I caught myself ordering unsettling amounts of eggs benedict and walking into a Vineyard Vines. I even ordered The WASP Cookbook.

So, what’s the problem?

Ever since I had a nervous breakdown at my college, ran away, and got trafficked, I made a point of making sure that I walk away from the “prep life” I was on track to eventually succumb to. I never wanted to go back.

I want to point all of this out because I genuinely hate the type of people I grew up with — with a handful of exceptions who know who they are. Hate is a strong word, which is why I am using it. I can’t stand the sight of my former classmates or anyone who looks like them.

Lately, though, I find myself nostalgic for the bad old days. I find myself wanting to hang out on a yacht or speedboat. I want to occasionally see a golf course, or have a personal cabana on the beach club. At times, I even wonder if people around me even have a horseback riding area.

I’ve started to miss the look of marble hallways, old wood columns, and the Princetonite-chic look of so many of the things I was once used to. I miss brunches that have lighter fare and watching people have martini dinners by the sea.

No lie, I yearn for it — and the damn pep-pep, rah-rah of the prep school spirit. And, for the love of all that’s holy, I can’t figure out why I’m yearning for a world that made it so clear that they don’t want me to be a part of it.

In reality, I know I don’t really want to go back to that type of life.

For someone who ran away from these people because they were so fake and so cruel, wanting to go back to those ways is alarming. When I asked my mother what the hell is happening to me, she actually had something that made a little bit of sense.

She said, “We tend to crave what we grew up with because it’s a source of comfort as we age. It’s why I decorated the house in red and gold and why you do the same in your home.”

Is this what it is?

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To a point, I might be able to see it, but there’s a problem. While I no longer have the knee-jerk hate reaction I once did with the look of old money, I don’t fully see why this is happening now and not earlier when my dad died.

My dad, much like myself, hated the pretension of living in an upper-crust neighborhood. My mom only recently started to embrace it. And me? Well, I moved to a more sane/civilized/honest area and have been able to work on healing trauma and rejection hurt from the past 30 years.

While I grew up with it, my home life was not entirely part of that world. It was just what I was surrounded by. I was the weird kid with a Romanian accent for the first four years of schooling. After that, I was the weird kid with sh*tty clothes. So…it’s not entirely my past, you know what I mean?

I know that if I went back to that kind of life, I’d go back to being miserable. I also know that no one in those circles would want me. I dress too weird for them. It’s a society that prides itself on conformity, and I never had the time nor impetus to fit in.

It’s a time when I don’t have the answers and can’t explain them.

Feeling the call to all the old money ways I was exposed to is messing with me on a visceral level. I’m happy when I’m in a warehouse. I’m happy when I get to see graffiti art being made, or when my friends and I have raunchy talks. It’s what I ran to.

Why do I want something I’ve run away from? Moreover, why would I want it when I have every reason to associate it with pain? I see navy blue sweaters and immediately assume the people wearing them hate me! That’s Pavlovian.

I’m not used to being unable to introspect my feelings or come up with a reason why this could be happening. It feels strange. This is totally left-field for me.

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I don’t know what this means. Part of me wonders if I can even try to work my way back into that life. I’m not sure whether that’s even feasible, all things considered. I’m still a pariah by the nature of my past.

Maybe in another life, I’ll feel ready to go back. I’ll give it the ol’ college try, finally get my degree, and smile politely without having any clue who actually wants to be around me. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll like it now that I’m older.

Maybe then, I’ll be ready to acclimate to the culture I was surrounded by in my hometown and the surrounding areas. Maybe it was just an age thing or just a part of me being the awkward goth in the neighborhood. Maybe I had to grow jaded or make money of my own.

Eh, probably not.

I still have no idea why I find myself missing it. But damn, it is weird and Saudade-filled. Am I the only one who gets this way about places and people you know aren’t good?

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey. She writes about lifestyle, psychology, finance, and relationships. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.