“There are places I’ll remember/ All my life though some have changed/ Some forever not for better/ Some have gone and some remain/ All these places have their moments/ With lovers and friends I still can recall/ Some are dead and some are living/ In my life I’ve loved them all…” –The Beatles
For the first time in a couple of years I went back to my college campus today. I needed to sign some papers in the administration building and stopped by early in the afternoon. Almost exactly three years ago I graduated. It’s a bittersweet feeling being back. I try not to think about my college life and self much. When I do, I feel like Harry Potter. He lived the school year in a world where he mattered, where he was a hero. Then he returned to a world where he was neglected, humiliated and ignored. College was my Hogwarts, a place where I was someone. I was, as Ron Burgundy put it, “Kind of a big deal.” Now, I live a life so different, so far from that that I hardly recognize it. I am not a leader, not lauded for my efforts, not given responsibility. I am not surrounded by friends, cramming my schedule full and forcing myself to make time to sleep. I spend my days alone, bored, in quiet anonymity.
I walked through the ground floor of a building to get to my office destination. As I opened the door, I quickly wondered if I would remember the way out of the labyrinthine classes and offices. As soon as the thought entered my mind, my body took over. Muscle memory led me through the halls, around corners. I walked the buildings and pathways so many times, so naturally, that it was still ingrained in me. My home of four years has changed significantly, new buildings sprouting up and faces all changed. Despite the new terrain, it was the same. The bookstore smelled exactly as it did when we wandered it between classes, despite all the new merchandise. The quiet campus still held a calm and comfort that I found in my hundreds of hours sitting around it.
All of the memories of who I was, of what I used to do, were hard to experience. I remembered cramming for finals, frantically finishing assignments and meeting for half-hearted group projects. I also remembered the people whom I loved, who loved me, and the time we spent there–the hours wasted in the coffee house, lounging on benches in the sun, strolling across the plazas. It was comforting to know that a piece of me still felt at home, still belonged on that campus. It also stung to see the new additions, the strange faces, and know that it is no longer my school.
“Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.” –Saul Bellow