I’m sitting at a metal table outside the Massey Business Building on the campus of Belmont University, my beloved alma mater. It’s about 6:30pm, and the sun is at the perfect spot in the sky. It's my favorite time of day. Absolute quiet surrounds me...more quiet than I've ever experienced on this campus, with a slightly cool feeling in the air. I’m sipping a cold bottle of Aquafina from Corner Court. Suddenly, I feel like I’m 20 again, in another time altogether, since it’s been over 7 years since I did this.
When I was in Corner Court, there was a sweet man working there, and by the pictures on the wall of him with several students, I could tell he’s well-loved and most likely has been here awhile. I small-talked with him about how I live in Dallas now. I told him I haven't been in Corner Court for over 7 years, and I didn't even know how long they'd had the new wall colors and chalkboard paint. He laughed and kept talking about how much he loves the students and how great of a place it is to be employed. Nice 'lil guy. As I'm typing this, he just locked up Corner Court for the night and walked past me saying, “Ya have a good one, now! Ain’t as hot as Texas out here is it?” I just smile.
Oh, bittersweet nostalgia. The memories are flooding back freely...
It is now 10 am on a Wednesday, and I don't have another class until PR in the Music Industry with Mr. Elliott (my fave professor) at 2pm. I'm sitting at the metal table chatting with my best friends Christy and Angela, decked out in my trusty denim overalls and Belmont baseball hat, munching on a very unhealthy but yummy coconut chocolate granola bar and guzzling a Dr. Pepper. Up walks J.T., Amanda, Jonna, Surupa, Heath, and Jonathan...to our regular meeting spot. We chat about how ridiculous that Accounting test was and how late we stayed up last night cramming. But most importantly, how many people are coming over to watch Friends tonight? And who is bringing the guitar?
Yet, it is 2006 and I’m no longer in college, I only visit Nashville now, no one will be coming over to watch Friends tonight (although maybe LOST instead!), and I'm sure not drinking Dr. Peppers by the dozen. ☺ As I decided about a half hour ago to kill some time before meeting up with friends by walking across campus to get a drink at Corner Court, I passed some teenage girls, and we smiled at each other. I decided to be friendly and asked them why they were here. They said it was for church camp (Centrifuge) and then asked if I was a student here. It was weird...I had a little tiny pang inside when they asked me that...I guess it was that little part of me that really misses all of it...being a student and the college way of life. I paused, smiled with a slight sense of sadness and replied, "No, I graduated in 1999 [which I realize is when they were about 10, and I suddenly feel really old...]. I'm just on campus visiting...but it was a wonderful place to go to school." They giggled and kept walking to meet up with their group for icebreakers or trust falls. I continued on my trek to Corner Court...through the center of campus and past the beautiful iron gazebos where we sang worship music many a night while a friend played guitar.
This whole business of recalling the college life is hard to understand. I’ve been learning a lot about “being in the moment” and living life in the here and now...getting the most out of today rather than spending today dreaming about another time and place. But how do I live in the present and deal with such sweet memories? This place is such a part of who I am today...and so maybe that's the answer.
My husband and I have also been talking a lot lately about community living and how that was played out in the "carefree" college life. Recently on a walk one evening at SMU, Steven asked me what my top 5 things were about being in college, and then he recalled his. Both of our favorite memories had to do with being with close friends all the time and always having some new activity/social event to be a part of...fraternity/sorority parties, outdoor concerts, all-you-can-eat-pancakes during Dead Day, late night movie marathons... And we both expressed how much we loved having people around all the time and living in the same place as those in our closest community. So we started pondering why that sense of life/community is something that rarely seems to happen outside of college. Why are there so many of us roaming around saying, "Man, that was the life. What I would give to go back to that now." Is it just what naturally happens when you grow up? Or is it how we form our lives after college because it's somehow expected that this is how it is supposed to be? Why can't we still have the benefits of college life while also being grown-ups? It baffles me. And I don't have an answer.
The sun is getting lower in the sky, casting a golden glow on everything in touches. I'm no longer thirsty, and it's time to go meet some friends for dinner at a restaurant on Belmont Blvd. Just a few last thoughts before I go:
I think it's time I walked on the sidewalk rather than trampling the manicured lawn through worn shortcuts in a rush to get to class.
I think it's time to pause and appreciate the lovely roses in the garden by the Belmont mansion, because 7 years ago, I didn't stop once as I passed them twice a day.
I wish I had loved this place this much when I went to school here.
I wish I didn't have to admit how much it disarms me to reconcile the present with the past.