Aspen Untucked: College Days Revisited
The saying is, “You can never go home again.” It can be perceived in several different ways, but I have always thought it to mean that it’s difficult to revisit a past time in one’s life. That we live our life in chapters, but, unlike a book, we can never return to a past one. That feeling has always resided in me somewhat unsoundly, as I’m a person that particularly likes nostalgia. I appreciate reflecting on the good times and, for me, some of the best experiences I’ve ever had were in college.
My generation (a.k.a. the millennials) is currently the most collegiately experienced in history, with more of us holding a college degree than any other generation of young adults. The stats in 2013 showed that 47 percent of us had received a postsecondary degree and an additional 18 percent had completed at least some postsecondary education, and the number has only increased from there.
With well over half of millennials having some kind of collegiate experience, talking about it among peers is commonplace. Memories of college, whether one is fond of them or not, is something that ties our generation together.
This last week, I had a chance to remember that when I returned to my pre-adult stomping grounds: Boston, MA. I went there with my boyfriend, who happened to go to the same college as me, for my younger brother’s graduation. We went to Emerson College, and he attended the much larger Northeastern University.
The greater Boston area is not only a college town, it’s a college city. It’s one of the most student-dense cities in the country. Every single city corner seems to have some kind of school, from Boston University and Harvard to smaller schools like Berklee College of Music and Fisher College. The eclectic mix of schools made my college experience all the more fun.
But when I threw my cap in the air and grasped my diploma, I was more than ready to put Beantown behind me. With a memory chock-full of hangovers, strange dating experiences and some highly questionable fashion choices, I knew I was wanting something a bit more mature. So … I went to Aspen (ha!), but that’s a story for another week. The point is, I was complete in my Boston experience, so I left and didn’t look back much at all.
That is, until this past weekend, when Matt and I returned to our college city as “adults.” We went there to celebrate my brother, but we found ourselves taking many strolls down memory lane in the process. Most of our friends now call other cities home — like New York City and Los Angeles — but we have a few that have found post-school success in Boston. When we were there, they took us around to some of their favorite new locations: fancy bars and trendy restaurants. But we also checked out many of the old haunts, the places we would go for a cheap drink when we weren’t, technically, of legal age to consume one. Surprisingly, or perhaps not in the least, the places hadn’t changed a bit. They still had the sticky counters, the basic drink selections and the inattentive waiters — all the things that made them so special from the start. It’s a comfort to know that some things in life, no matter how much time goes by, never seem to change.
We spent two solid nights with some of our best friends, people who we used to spend most of our time around. It felt like nothing had changed when we were back together, even though it had been a year or more since we had seen any of them. The memories of college put us right back where we started. The only difference was our increased ages.
After two nights of pure nostalgia, we found ourselves beaten and haggard. It turns out that two-day hangovers are a real thing, and they develop forcefully with age. That next morning brought the Northeastern graduation ceremony, which was held in a large sporting stadium in the North End in Boston.
The excitement among the graduates was palpable immediately, even though we were in the nosebleed seating section. I looked down at all these kids’ faces. They had worked years for that day, and they were ready to enter the real world. I remembered my own ceremony and how excited I was for the next steps, how I was just sure all my dreams were going to synchronize together as one and my life would be complete. Turns out, life is much messier than that. I wasn’t planning on sharing that information with the recent graduates, however. They would figure it out in time, just as the rest of us have started to.
The long weekend concluded quickly, but those three short days reminded me of a couple things. Firstly, that our drinking metabolisms aren’t what they used to be, not at all. But, perhaps more importantly, it reminded me not to focus so hard on life’s rat race. That I need to slow down and enjoy the journey, because each chapter in life goes by quicker than the last. But, luckily, on certain occasions, we can turn back the pages and revisit a former chapter.
Just to be clear, Barbara Platts still does not consider herself an adult. But perhaps that’s the beauty of Aspen: She never has to. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet her @BarbaraPlatts.
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