While I was home for Christmas, I took an impromptu tour of my college town which, of course, resulted in a lot of feelings. So this is what happens when I have a lot of feelings..
Returning to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. Happy new year, friends.
But right then, I missed it all. The up-all-night studying, the anxious refreshing of test scores, the nerves of meeting new people daily and the torture of falling in love with the wrong person. Back then nothing was rational. I wasn't concerned with learning to cook or being tidy, it was all about what I wanted on the most basic level. Aside from getting decent grades and maybe finding a job after graduation, all I cared about was hitting the town with my friends, remembering the names of frat boys gossiped about at dinner, eating everything bagels with ALL the cream cheese and running. Always running. Every road, every lake, every cookie cutter apartment complex reminded me of my longest and perhaps only healthy habit at that time. Day after day I felt the lactic acid burn in my thighs as the Florida heat bore down on my freckled shoulders.
I was transported to the night Ziggy came on a long run with me and wrapped herself around the stop sign as I screamed in frustration trying to understand what this little pup was about. We wouldn't get into a rhythm until a couple years later, so many times runs happened without her and she'd join me for long, relaxed walks over the bridge, past the complex none of my friends could afford.
I thought of the time my friend was almost abducted on her walk home. How she screamed loud enough to make him let go. The time another was held hostage in his own home. The time a friend squeezed me and smiled carelessly shortly before her life was taken in an instant. The voice message as I walked home from poetry class with a latte in hand, telling me our dog didn't make it and the other voicemail as I walked out of a Rooney concert downtown softly informing me that my Grandmother didn't either. The time I returned after several years, not realizing I'd been exiled by my own tainted perceptions of this town, and the way the memories beat me down instead of lifting me up. I'd lumped it all together, forgetting the precious years when all was entirely new and I made a path for myself, by myself.
I made friends, I experienced the school, played in a fountain and I loved the town all on my own. Back then, I didn't see it that way, so I hid from it. Fearing breaking the seal on the town would reopen my finally healing wounds. But not anymore.
This time I could only focus on the good. I couldn't stop smiling at the column I scraped my car against, I even laughed thinking of my car's purposeful key marks left by jealousy and the curse/blessing of being young and possessing all the emotions you eventually come to repress. My heart certainly healed, and grew scar tissue in a way I didn't realize it could. But this campus, the smells, the humidity, the green, the freezing air conditioning and crushing heat: in this moment it felt like everything.
I felt the excitement of leaving home for the first time and terrifying happiness of trying something new and challenging. I started to feel proud of the grey hairs I've been so adamantly plucking out of my head and the wrinkles starting to form. The yearning to fly back in time and start it again was there, but it could never be recreated. Even though the bars and the buildings all looked the same, the people, the parties and my perspective are all drastically different now.
I can never go back, but I can wade in the safe, rose-colored swamp for as long as I want. One day I'll retell my college experience to my children and I won't even be able to recall the heartbreak, the shower cries or the stress. I'll remember the tragedies, I'll never forget those lost who touched my life, but I'll choose not to include them in this story. I'll let them be told in different, equally important ways.
College will remain untainted.