While my classes during my undergrad weren’t great, my overall college experience had some bright points to it. I remember fondly sitting up with my suite mates all night my freshman year and playing games, and D&D over Cheezie’s pizza in that little apartment on Harrison, and spending time with the Model U.N. club, and hanging out at Potter’s House, and Bible study at FnC…
These days, I feel socially isolated. It’s not the quality of the relationships I miss, but the nature of the conversations. In college, everyone was being exposed to new ideas and they were learning at a fast pace. Conversations were tinged with a sense of discovery and excitement, and we were focused on those ideas.
Here in our thirties, we have been working full-time jobs for a while, and many people have started families, and we’ve learned most of what we’re going to learn in regards to core knowledge. Wisdom and patience will grow, but our time of critically exploring history, religion, sociology, psychology, anthropology, language, literature, music, and so many other subjects… that has largely come to an end.
What I miss is people sharing interesting ideas. Talking about new thoughts they’re having. And this is coupled with another loss: people moving away. The people I have known longest, and who have known me best, are gone at this point. Their departure from Springfield has been slow over the years, rather than immediately after graduation, but at this point I don’t feel like I have anyone left I can just casually hang out with.
By way of explanation, the last time Shawn came to town, we just sat at my kitchen table and talked for 3 hours. When Jennie and I get together, we can talk for days about a myriad of subjects and not grow weary of each other’s company.
I think part this is how introverted I am. It takes a long time for me to reach that level of comfort with someone. Based on people we introduced into our D&D group over the years, it’s around 2-3 years of seeing someone regularly before I really start to feel comfortable around them. Jennie and I have known each other for 13 years. I met Shawn in 8th grade. Ryan in 3rd. Cody in 6th.
So I pine for those old friendships. There are a few people still around with whom I lost touch over the years, and I have this foolish hope that if I could reconnect with them, I could recapture that social ease that I miss. But I think we’ve come too far; too much has happened in the intervening years, and we have changed so very much. I actually did reach out to someone on Facebook a while back. They didn’t share a profile picture publicly, so I sent a friend request and asked if it was “so-and-so from that place and time.” It was, and we exchanged the common, “What have you been up to inquiry?”
It had been 14 years, and went like this:
“Things are good! Got out of high school, went to college, got a job, got married, got out of college, went back to college, got a new job. BA in Religious Studies, and finishing a Master of Science in Project Management in December.
“Which, when I put it that way, sounds like college is life, when I’m not actually a very good student… but the piece of paper is nice. Lots of ups and downs between then and now, but mostly ups. How have you been?”
No reply. An unbelievable amount has happened in that time. My life has changed drastically. I have changed, and I’d like to think for the better. But I’m no longer the person they knew, and they’re not the person I knew. There’s no going back, at least not when only one person in the relationship is the one wanting to reconnect.
It’s not that relationships in college weren’t fraught with drama and challenges. It wasn’t a golden age where all we discussed were lofty ideals, and there were certainly fierce disagreements about those ideals. But that’s part of what I miss as well: discussing ideas, and making judgments based on those. Back then, I didn’t feel like people looked at me and saw my job as much, or my bank account, or my relationship status, or lack of kids. (Though the introductory question was always, “What’s your major?” and people did totally judge based on that… which is a good thing to remember as I start to rhapsodize and idealize the past.) We talked about things, and decided who our circle was based on intellectual interests and the alignment of our core beliefs.
I’m almost certainly looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses. I’d almost guarantee I am, and that I’m only remembering the handful of positive interactions and forgetting the slew of negative ones, and that things weren’t so great in the past. I think I’m just missing the ability to pop into a coffee shop, see people I know and like there with no pre-planning, and sitting down to talk about something outside ourselves. I feel like, after college, we have all become blinkered.
There are, thankfully, a handful of people left I can hang out with. And I can call some people by phone to talk. It’s just a bit harder than it was in college to connect, and I think that ease and lack of deliberateness are what I’m really missing. I was getting together with someone a couple of days ago for coffee to talk about work, and I thought about suggesting the Potter’s House for our rendezvous. But then I reconsidered, because being a couple of 30 year old men in there talking work around a bunch of 18 year olds discussing the Bible or their college classes seemed a bit off to me.
I suspect we humans always miss something about the past. As we get older, we remember just the good things, and we wish the current days were as good as those olden ones. Just writing through all this has helped restore a bit of perspective… those days weren’t the greatest, they were just different. There are people I can spend time with socially now, I just have to be a bit more deliberate about it. The one small thing I miss about college is something I can mostly reclaim now, I just need to get out and do it.