Back on Campus

I spent the weekend on a college campus for the first time in more than 15 years. It was not my own alma mater, so I would be able to explore, I thought, without suffering from nostalgia. Now, back at home, I realize how optimistic I was to think that possible. I mean, really, how could I not think back to Lloyd parties on Thursdays and Drinker parties on Saturdays and not get nostalgic? Spending an entire Saturday sunbathing on Founder’s Green? Debating politics with a roomful of people who agreed with each other, but loved the challenge of expressing their views anyway? Wondering whether Anna Karenina’s fate could have been avoided in another country at another time? Complaining about the Art History professor who failed to expound convincingly on the connection between the piece of art and the moment in history when it was created.

Ugh. I want to go back!

Here is a glimpse of what I saw and heard:

• A young woman on the phone had parked on the side of a quiet road. Her windows were open. She was on the phone passionately trying to convince a male friend that he is, in fact, madly in love with his girlfriend, and that he must tell her that.

I imagined a more complicated story, as I recall, most college stories tend to be. Would this young woman break into tears after hanging up the phone because she is, she thinks, in love with the male friend on the phone? Although she is trying to be a good friend, deep down, she hopes the talked about love interest turns him down? Either that, or the male friend cheated on the love interest, and this friend of the love interest is coaching him on winning her back? There was certainly drama, something you learn to avoid as you grow older. Drama is bad. Then why do we look back fondly on the most drama-filled period of our lives?!

• People spending their sunny Saturday merely lying in the sun. It is the one thing I miss most in the world since having kids. A day lying in the sun with not one responsibility or deadline or voice calling for a snack or a resolution to a quarrel about whose turn it is on the Wii.

• Signs everywhere broadcasting “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” which was battling for center stage with “Caribbean Culture Awareness Week.” Back in the late 1980s, when I was in college, I thought such awakenings to the issues were new and specific to my small college of about 1,200. It felt so personal. And now, the signs look almost as if they were written in the same hand. Who knew?

• Students sitting at a crowded table sharing a pitcher of beer, passionately debating whether Obama or Romney will win in November 2012. Everyone at this particular table seems to agree, but they haven’t absorbed that, and so the debate becomes increasingly heated. They sound so smart when they hear themselves speak that they order another pitcher.

• Diversity. A group of classmates having dinner. They are graduate students. One is a doctor. One works in fashion. One works on Wall Street. One works in technology. One runs his own foundation. They come from Africa, India, Great Britain, Sri Lanka, the U.S., and others I cannot guess. They are married with kids, divorced with kids, married with dogs, engaged and still single. They are mostly 35-45. There’s the quiet one, the funny one, the smart one, the totally stressed out one, the ridiculously mellow. Their reasons for being here range from boredom, trying to catapult to the next level in their career, wanting to own their own business, wanting to be better, more effective leaders. And they keep laughing…. together.

I want to go back to school!


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