Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hail to Alma Mater (I think I've used this title before, but I just can't think of anything better other than to add this sort of meta disclaimer)

So this weekend was my 15th reunion from college. It seems so odd to think that it's been that long since I was in college. Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday. Other times, it seems like a lifetime ago. I often think about that bright-eyed, idealistic girl who received that diploma 15 years ago and wonder what she would think of the life she's living 15 years later. Would she be disappointed? Happy? I wonder if I did right by her -- and if she did right by me.

Homecoming is such a weird phenomenon -- a time steeped in nostalgia and revisionism. Suddenly, you find yourself having these long conversations with people that you barely spoke five words to in the course of the four years you shared the same home. That '93 beside your name is somehow this marker that assures your fellow Homecomers that you are safe, good, and worthy of attention. You find yourself reminiscing and missing things that you loathed when you were living it firsthand -- the classes and buildings you once dreaded are suddenly fond memories. You long to roam the halls and sit in classrooms you once shunned. The hours you spent slaving over term papers or tech week are now joyful little memories -- you laugh at how stressed those little things made you. The cafeteria is a mecca of fine cuisine even though fifteen years ago you spent hours giving in depth critiques of all the culinary crimes that transpired there. Looking back now, you realize you had it made. There was this place on campus where you could just walk in and your food was ready for you. All you had to do was eat it. No cooking, no dishes, no worries.

College is really a magical time, a beautiful transitional phase where you begin shouldering what seem like tremendous burdens and responsibilities but are really these little placebos to get you ready for the real thing. Think about it -- you get four years to read, write, learn about whatever suits your fancy, build wonderful friendships, and partake in one adventure after another. When else in your life do you get such freedom with such a limited amount of responsibility?

Often times at Homecoming, I get caught up in thinking about what I wish I had known then and wonder how it would have changed my life. I wonder what it would have been like had I chosen different classes, a different major. What if I had traveled abroad? What if I had gotten involved in different organizations? Would my college experience have been any richer? Could it have been any richer? In the end, I'm left with few regrets and just the occasional melancholy "what if?" I can live with that.

In the end, Homecoming carries with it a certain amount of reflection but its chief feature is celebratory. It's a time to pay tribute to the place that made you, to pay tribute to the people who helped shape and mold the person you are today -- whether it's professors or friends. It's a time to celebrate the opportunities that this place gave you, the doors it opened, the courage it gave you to go out into the world and try this crazy thing called living. It's a time to celebrate the friends who held your hair when you threw up after one too many shot of Jack Daniels, the friends who were still there to hold your hand as you faced grief, the friends who applauded and cheered for you when you found success, the friends who stood by your side as you faced life's trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows. Homecoming is a time to take stock and spend some time remembering who you are and embracing all those who took that journey with you. In the end, you realize that you were Home all along because those people and experiences have never left you -- and never will.

1 comment:

Danielle Mari said...

Great post, Mel. Wish I could have been there to help toast the old times with you.... but your post has made me all weepy-eyed. I feel like I got a little taste!