2008-03-10

A River Runs Through It

I live in a college town and the influence of the university is everywhere...from the scores of inexpensive restaurants, to a bunch of independent music and bookstores, to fliers for bands stapled to phone poles, there is not mistaking this town has plenty in the 18-25 year-old crowd.

Yesterday I went for a long bike ride; I hopped onto a bike path right by my house, went through some neighborhoods, hit downtown, then through an arboretum which ultimately dumped me onto campus.

This campus is, coincidentally, much like the campus I spent all of my college years at (undergrad, post-baccheloriate, and med school). It has huge expanses of green lawn peppered with mature trees and well-maintained landscaping. The buildings ooze history, and the walkways crackle with a lingering energy generated by the of hundreds of thousands of earnest (and not-so-earnest) matriculated who have shuffled along them.

Both of these campuses I have come to know so well also have rivers that bisect them nearly exactly in half; there are many ornate pedestrian bridges. The perimeters of each of these university campuses are agricultural, and it's pretty common to see horses and cows as you go about your day. This town I live in is just so similar to the one in which I lived while in college that it is sometimes spooky.

And then there are the students. Yesterday was a beautiful afternoon, and they were outside in droves...studying, picnicking, studying, making out, studying, walking hand-in-hand, studying, riding their bikes, and of course, studying.

As I biked along, memories that I hadn't revisited in years came flooding back. I suddenly vividly recalled studying, picnicking, studying, making out, studying, walking hand-in-hand, studying, riding their bikes, and of course, studying. Can it really have been so long ago that I was one of them?

It's been a dozen years since I've claimed a college campus as truly my own. As I rode amongst the students, I as struck by the fact that I was an outsider...I didn't belong anymore. I'd spent nearly all of my adult life a college student, it can be odd to realize that THAT time of my life is over. Oh, sure, I could go back to college and get another degree (sounds like a nightmare to me, but still, I could). But that's not the point. The bitter pill to me is that even if I did so, I'd still be an outsider.

That's the rub. I'm (relative to them) old now. It was obvious as I rode along those bike paths; I was invisible to those whipper-snappers. Yet as I watched them walking purposefully towards a building, or laughing together, or lounging by the river soaking up the sun pretending to study but really waiting for that moment when the first kiss would arrive, or making plans for the evening...all I could think of was, "Wow. Is it really not yesterday?"

5 comments:

  1. College is one of those times that symbolizes so much of my maturing processes. It was the best and worst of times but, I don't think I would want to go back. Maybe I will just live vicariously through my children :)

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  2. Oh, I have those thoughts and feelings ALL the time. It's bittersweet. I'd never go back, but I wish I still had the option.

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  3. I keep wondering when I got so old. ACK!

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  4. Wow! I live in a college town too! And it's only about 25 miles from my old campus - so I'm struck with geographic deja-vous moments frequently. Reflecting is fun, though I wouldn't trade the view from where I am now for anything. Though I'm excited for my kids when they enter that "whole world is open to you" phase.

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  5. Hey, I recognize that place in the picture. Sniffle. You are making me all weepy and waxing nostalgic.

    Funny, I took my youngest to Noah's on Mercer Island here in Washington yesterday. Noah's always brings back memories of my college experience. Well, that and Blondie's pizza.

    Anyhoo, there were all these high school kids there chatting and flirting. I eavesdropped while I pretended to click buttons on my laptop and eat my bagel schmear. I got those same flashbacks as mentioned on your post. I'm definitely a middle-aged mom. Definitely an outsider now.

    That thought of being an outsider is scary. I've watched my husband currently going back to get his MBA at Univ. Washington and it's so hard. So hard to get back into that life with kids. A lot of his fellow students are still single, no kids. No worries.

    Someday. Someday, I think to myself, I'll get that law degree I hoped for back then before I got pregnant and married in my fourth year.

    Someday is scary...

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Brilliant observations: