It’s homecoming weekend at my alma mater, and I came back to visit for a 5-year departmental reunion.
Television and movies have taught me that reunions are awkward, high-pressure situations that are toxic for those of us with flexible self-esteem levels. These gatherings are supposed to be a sort of pissing contest, except not the kind where you see who can piss the farthest. Rather, in this version, you try to actually piss on the people around you.
Things (thankfully?) did not turn out as I was expecting. Everyone was generally nice and I didn’t feel any pressure to impress. Anyone who had gone to industry after college greeted you with a hearty handshake and a business card, while everyone who had gone to grad school gave you a bittersweet smile while promising/lying that they are “almost” done. What caught me off guard was the inundation of college-memories that hit me as soon as I got near campus. Walking around I saw my friends, roommates, professors, and past-loves everywhere. I saw myself, running ragged from class to class. Every place had a memory associated with it – “This is where we built a gigantic snowman that some jerks knocked over with their truck… Oh look! It’s that big rock I always used to fall asleep on! Isn’t that the steam vent that my drunk friend burned half his face off at?! Cool!”. Campus was spectacular – we hit he prime of fall foliage changeover, and the scenery was pristine. I spent four hours just visiting my old hang outs and reliving the past.
It was overwhelming. I actually lost my breath walking back to my frosh/soph dormitory just from the rush of memories. Or maybe it was the huge hill.
Our alumni association likes to remind us that we are always a part of this college. But what hit me most was how much I’m NOT a part of it anymore. No matter how much I may want it, those days are gone forever. At the same time I realize that I may be putting college on a pedestal because I’m currently in an extremely disgruntled, and sometimes cut-throat, work environment. Rather than worry about the pissing contest I might go back to someday, maybe I should think about whether I’m in one right now?
But that’s too cynical for me. I loved college, and I love where I am now too, just differently. Instead of focusing on how one spot may or may not be better for me, I’ll leave with a renewed sense of pride and happiness in my roots. Go UMass!