I wore my flower Doc Martens and oversized sweater because I wanted to feel COOL. I wanted to feel cool, but casual. I wanted to feel cool, but casual because I was going back to college. Not, like, in a "Hello! Back to get another degree that will be remarkably useless!" way, but in a "Hello! I am here to hear a lecture. Not just hear it, but see it and learn from it!" way. Wow. That last sentence deserves so many red marks. But you aren't a copy editor and neither am I. I was, though, at one point. When I was in college. College. I went back to college last night.
And it was hard.
I spent almost a decade at that school (yes, it took me EIGHT years to get a bachelor's), graduated by surprise (which meant I didn't really have the chance to say goodbye), and haven't been back in four and a half years (holy crap). Anyone would have felt a bit out-of-sorts returning, right? I didn't prepare myself, either. I was attempting to be SPONTANEOUS and FLEXIBLE and SOCIAL and just kinda went to the lecture. I decided that I was going to get out and expand my mind -- and also see if I could handle not going to the gym for one night. Exercise addiction is a real thing, people. Plus, I was (am) genuinely interested in the lecture subject -- marriage equality. Equal rights for all! Even dolphins! Oh, so now you can marry a dolphin? What about a carrot, you plant-loving-NPR-tote-bag-wearing-mountain-hiking-recycling-do-gooder-hippie? So yeah, the lecture was good. I wish I would have paid more attention to it, though. I was too lost in the thoughts of the past. Too lost in the regrets of paths I didn't take, people I abandoned, all of the many many many things I never tried (study abroad! internships! grad school! late-night pizza binges!), and so on. And on and on and on until I was too drained emotionally that I shut off and smiled vacantly at the people I passed in the hall on my way out of the student center.
So I guess that was a failure.
Then again, it was also a giant success. I gave something a try. I knew that my main purpose in attending the lecture was to get out of my house, to break my strict schedule, to try something new, to step beyond the barrier of my own mind. And I suppose I didn't mind the uncomfortable feelings and memories that came along with my return to campus. I mean, not really. For brief moments I was able to view my experience as an opportunity to practice acceptance, loving-kindness, and gratitude. Yes, gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity I had to learn as much as I did. Gratitude for the difficulties I faced each semester, such as figuring out how to deal with classes and clinical depression at the same time. It forced me to grow, become stronger, and eventually develop genuine empathy for others in similar positions. There is also the gratitude for the mountains of life-changing literature I consumed, poetry and absurdist one-act plays I wrote and shared, incredible and incredibly complex humans I met and loved and with whom I disagreed. And then there was the occasional pizza, the long nights spent writing and researching and philosophizing in streets and on roofs. The deconstructions as well as the constructions. The sacrifices and the eventual resurrections. And did I mention the pizza? There can't be college without pizza. It might even be a fact, but I am skeptical because I also learned to question everything while in college. And that is probably the thing for which I am most grateful.
That was my night. I returned home in my heavy Docs and baggy sweater with a head full of gooey memories and soupy confusion. I walked around the block in the bitter cold of the night to detox my brain a bit. It sort of worked. Walks and nature will always help in clearing whatever has become muddled. Still, I have a slight nostalgia and remorse hangover today. I will work with it. I will let it sit while I examine. I will accept and give thanks. I will ask questions and be okay with never hearing an answer. And maybe someday soon I will order an entire pizza for myself and enjoy it tremendously.