This morning I sat outside the cafeteria trying to sell tickets for an event tomorrow night. The students rushed past, eager to get in, get some grub and get going to classes and finals. I barely recognize anyone now. And they all look. so. young. Though I was slightly distracted by how many girls wear leggings rather than actual pants – They’re a thick pair of tights! Please! Cover your ass in public! – I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me. It wasn’t the pathetic, I-want-to-be-20-years-old-and-sans-responsibility-forever kind of nostalgia.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something I miss about college. I don’t miss eating cafeteria food. I don’t miss sitting through mind-numbing lectures. I don’t miss being up at all hours of the day and night studying and writing papers for classes that I barely remember now. I don’t miss the other fashion fauz-pas that sleep-deprived, shower-deprived college kids tend to make when they roll out of bed in the morning…
Okay, I admit it. I had an infamous pair of “no-no” pants, too. “No-no” pants because of the hole that ripped from my inner thigh across the back of my leg and I still wore them for several weeks afterward rationalizing that it wasn’t that bad until one morning when my roomie said, “No. No. Not again. Wear these instead.” And she tossed me another pair of jeans. Those had holes as well, but not anywhere near my backside. (Seriously, thank you.)
I don’t miss working crappy part-time jobs just so that I could buy a couple packs of Ramen Noodles. I’ve paid my dues – as a library page, English tutor, waitress, telemarketer, retail associate, nanny and much, much worse. I don’t miss walking to class in rainstorms and blizzards or getting parking tickets from Campus Safety. I don’t miss fighting with roommates over dishes duty or whose turn it is to clean the bathroom. (If you’ve ever lived with girls, you understand my dread at having to unclog the shower drain.)
At this point in time I feel like I’ve won some big battles. I’ve crossed a major threshold in life. I’ve survived adolescence and my college years and I’ve come out on the other side having achieved several goals. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree. I completed my degree in four years AFTER switching my major AND after I traveled abroad for a whole semester with classes that didn’t directly count towards my degree AT ALL. (Worth every penny and extra class, by the way.) I’m married to my college sweetheart. I have a full-time job (and I’m even using my college degree!) I’ve confronted some pretty big fears and painful experiences and the consequential character flaws. I’m writing of my own accord on a regular basis without needing a mentor to spoon-feed me inspiration.
So what was that nostalgia, then, as I watched students scurrying past me in the cafeteria?
Here’s what I do miss :
I miss having a roomie around to tell me when I need to use a hairbrush or put on a better pair of jeans. (I’m blessed with a husband who mostly thinks I look good in everything, but he’s biased.)
I miss late-night burrito runs, having people to eat lunch with nearly every day and walking to class with friends.
I miss the feeling of earning an A on a paper or project I’ve spent weeks researching and studying for. (Note : Paychecks are an entirely different kind of gratification – the kind that wears off as soon as you hand over your rent check.)
I miss sleeping, eating, working, studying, and spending nearly every waking moment in a community chock full of people I love.
I miss travel and studying abroad – packing my bags, taking trains, wandering around old cities that are new to me – the general freedom of being a wanderlust.
I miss morning, afternoon and evening naps squeezed in between classes.
I (occasionally) miss wearing jeans and sweatshirts (and “no-no” pants) instead of dress pants and heels.
Sometimes, without taking the “lifelong learning” bit too literally or wishing to go back in time, I do actually miss college. It went so fast. Time stretches out before me now with few definite plans. I plan to be a parent. – in the distant future, a very VERY long time from now. Like, when God creates a 36-hour day, OR 5 years from now, whichever comes first. I plan to pursue a career in writing. I’m trying to pursue that now, but I’m not sure what the next rung on the ladder is…
Time for grad school?