I walked out of class and felt a little tug at my heart. As I followed the winding sidewalk from the School of Communication and Information past the library, I saw students through the windows tucked into comfy chairs or sitting at long tables, ear buds in, pencils to paper. It was nearing nine o’clock, but I know some of them were probably just settling in for some study time. A couple of young students walked in front of me, talking and laughing, wearing backpacks, one of them carrying a skateboard.
The air was cool and crisp and beautiful. It felt like fall, even though summer was just a second ago. And the nostalgia of it all hit me — I loved college. I loved that fresh feeling of freedom, of going for an evening walk with friends, staying up late to talk in the cafe or finish an assignment, sitting in the quiet library reading and reading, all life’s possibilities out in front of you, not yet close enough to feel heavy and burdensome.
For a second I wanted to return to those days, which were a bit more carefree and easy … but then I thought of my husband at home, in our cozy house on our quiet street, and the wistfulness went away. I didn’t want to wander around campus until midnight before heading back to a dorm. I didn’t want to dream about the future as if it is still so far off. I wanted to go home. I wanted to keep living this life, not go back, not just dream about it. And that was a nice feeling too, knowing that going forward was not only what I had to do, but what feels right, now.
I started my second semester of grad school this September. When I began the program last spring, it was an adjustment — I’ve been out of college for about eight years, so getting back to the academic reading and writing took effort. But I love studying communication and my classes have been well worth the effort so far.
I’ve always enjoyed school, really. It helps that I excel at studying and reading and writing research papers. I love a good discussion about ethics and psychology, the effects of media and technology, theories of communication and linguistics. I love learning. When I decided to go back to school last year, it was somewhat of an impulse decision. I was feeling stuck and stagnant. I needed a change. I needed to feel like I was moving forward in my life. So I decided to get my master’s degree, and it was a good decision. Going back to school wasn’t — isn’t — easy with full time work and house renovations and a blog and book to write, but it’s been interesting and challenging and motivating in great ways. Plus, I absolutely loved college and I miss those years sometimes.
I have a tendency for longing and regret, for days gone by. I have a tendency to think it was so much better back then. But it’s pretty good now too, when I’m being completely honest. We can look back on the past and feel invigorated for our future, or we can look back and see where we went wrong or where life wronged us, and feel sadness and regret. Moving forward is the only option we have really, but it’s so nice when it’s also the best option, when we’re excited for what’s next and we can look back at what we had and feel grateful it happened and content to leave it right where it is.
As I walk through campus as a graduate student, that little tug at my heart reminds me how much fun I had in college and how much I learned, not just in class but in the time between classes when I learned about myself. But I leave it there: grateful it happened but happy to keep moving on, happy to keep moving forward.
When I got home, we did go for a walk, but it was down to the end of our dead-end street and back again to our home and our fuzzy little cat. We talked about our days, and my new class, and soaked in the cool night air.