A few days ago I had the opportunity to visit a milonga in my hometown. I was born and lived till I was 18 in a small town called Xanthi in Greece. The old town of Xanthi is a very picturesque and lovely place that I keep dear in my heart because these are the streets I grew up in. The milonga was situated in a building a few meters away from where my grandfather had his milkshop. I used to go there after school every day and wait for my parents to come pick me up when they finished their work. I always have that place connected with my grandparents and I still visit my grandma who lives in her house in the same neighborhood.
As a child I was quite shy… introverted… a bit of a geek… and obviously not the kind of popular guy. Especially when it came to girls I would be double as shy. School is always a hard place for such children and I can’t say I had the hardest of times but I did have my share of teasing from my classmates. I was never physically hurt but… I can’t say I wasn’t psychologically affected. I wanted to be somehow approved by them, to be one of the cool kids. Who doesn’t? But it was obvious that I never was.
When I left my hometown to study in Thessaloniki, I gradually cut my connections to this environment. I started building friendships from scratch. I made friends with people like me most of the time. People who were never the point of attention but we shared common interests. I didn’t care much to be part of the cool kids club… and I didn’t want anymore their validation. I was still quite shy with girls but so were my friends and that made me feel ok. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one.
I started understanding that it is okay to be how I am as much as people thought I was strange or antisocial. That was who I was and having friends that didn’t mind it was exactly what I needed and had. However, the link to my hometown and some of the opinions people had about me still lived within me. When I left Greece for my Master I felt even more liberated from them. I was finally in a place that I felt fitting in. Friends and people around me would not judge or bully me for who I was. That is why some of my best friends today are from those two periods. My friends from university and masters. How do I know? Even if they are far away… even if their lives are totally on a different track… whenever there is a chance to meet I will seek it. I will call them… I will message them… We will find a way to catch up. On the contrary, even though I travel back to my hometown quite often… I never seek to meet one of my classmates from school. I just don’t feel like it.
My recent visit to the milonga in my hometown made me reflect on all this. Even more so because I happened to meet two classmates from my school years who now dance too! Meeting after all this time and in such a different context was a very strange sensation. I can’t really explain it. Many of the people back there don’t know at all how I am in milongas… even my family doesn’t… they have a totally different image of me from almost 30 years ago… and now we meet in a context where I feel the most changed from all. Because in Tango I feel I am most different than in any other aspect of my life. If you see me at work you might recognize pieces of that schoolboy… If you see me with my family or friends you might see pieces of that young Christos in there. But in Tango… this is the place you would never imagine this schoolboy to be after 30 years.
Well… maybe my old classmates could still see parts of that shy schoolboy still hidden somewhere in there… I was in my own corner… sometimes in my own little world… but this time I was not afraid to be me. I was not afraid to airplay my imaginary bandoneon thinking of how I come across to others. I was not afraid to look my once classmates in the eye and cabeceo them. I was not afraid to dance as strange or funny as I felt the music guiding me. I did not want to be a part of the cool kids club anymore and I was not hiding who I really am.
Some time ago I wrote about the structure of songs and how they always have a part that repeats and a part that is changing (the chorus and the verse). I was drawing a parallel with the typical storytelling pattern of heroes going on adventures and getting back home. Well… Returning and dancing in the same neighborhood where I was once playing as a kid reminded me of exactly that. I felt like this story hero who returned home after yet another adventure that changed him so much that his home could hardly recognize who he was.
I travel quite often to my hometown. I can’t say I miss it. But sometimes… some returns…. are just a little bit more revealing about the distance I walked so far… and the pieces of my roots still inside me. So… let’s see what the next adventure holds for me! How much different will I be in my next return home?
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is about returning back home…to the “South” which in Buenos Aires marks the roots. No matter how many changes and adventures I have gone through and will go through in the future, as the song says… I will always carry it in me!
How about you? How far have you “traveled” in life? How often do you return home? How does it feel? How much has tango changed you in this journey? What pieces of your home do you still carry inside you? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.