These days, I have been thinking a lot about college.
You see, I am knee deep in the writing of my next novel which is about three women who met in college. Though I am writing about the school I attended - Yale - I am not writing about my experience. But I do find myself thinking about my bright college years, and reminiscing.
Who was I in college?
I remember my first day of college. Arriving on Old Campus, meeting my three roommates: the funky granddaughter daughter of a famous baseball player who also hailed from Manhattan, a softball pitcher recruit from Arizona, a Connecticut local and track star who would spend four years throwing the shot put for us Bulldogs. I remember walking around the pockets of green with a best friend from high school - not a roommate, but coincidentally placed in Pierson College with me - and looking up at the sky and thinking, This is it. College. We are here!
I remember the first two weeks well. Taking the French placement exam among a sea of fellow freshmen, sitting on folding chairs as the dean welcomed us to Yale. The next time you are all gathered like this will be for graduation, he said. I remember going to the same Mexican joint, an amazing hole in the wall my older sister had introduced me to, night after night, delighting in the sangria even though I was just seventeen. I remember how we went to great lengths to convince the portly bar owner (Sponz, I think) that we were medical students at the school. He didn't care about our story; the fact that we were young and bubbly and blond seemed to suffice.
I remember studying late at the library, my mind lost in a stack of notes, my hand dipping into a vast bag of gummy raspberries. I remember the charge I got in that particularly good philosophy seminar when we were debating ontology and phenomenology and talking breathlessly about Spinoza and Leibniz and the theory of other possible worlds; how my heart thumped magically in my chest as I threw up my hand to say something. I remember standing in sludge in fraternity basements and laughing with friends and flirting with boys and literally feeling youth and freedom with every breath.
I remember eating cup after cup of Tomato Florentine soup from Au Bon Pain when I was hungover; it seemed to be the answer. I remember dancing with a group of sorority sisters, all of us happy and dressed in black, on the Women's Table on Cross Campus. I remember getting ready for a night out in my room, blasting my big sister's mixed tape (Think: Nothing Compares to You, Jessie's Girl), passing around a bottle of cheap champagne. I remember meeting with my Philosophy adviser, a small and brilliant man, who was passionate about Plato and loved to tell stories about yogurt.
I remember being selfish, confident, excited, nervous, happy, proud, uncertain, young, mature, free, protected, lucky, pressured. I remember feeling gorgeous and feeling fat. I remember falling in love and feeling doubt. I remember not knowing a thing, and knowing absolutely everything. I remember reading, and writing, and drinking coffee. I remember calling home. I remember going home, picking up a Subway sandwich at the train station, hopping on Metro North, heading home, the world blurring by.
I remember graduation day. I was tired and puffy. I wore a black dress with little flowers under my gown. It was sunny that day as we came together in clusters and walked. I remember the Pierson dean announcing my honors: Aidan Donnelley. Magna Cum Laude. The gasps were audible. I'm pretty sure everyone thought I was a not-so-smart blond.
I remember so much. It's been years, more than ten, but I can still see it - the campus green, my hand flying across a ruled piece of paper taking tiny, meticulous notes, a girl who loved to work hard and play hard and live life, smiling big, struggling too, but smiling, at the beginning of it all.
The College Me. Quite the character. One I love and laugh at and celebrate and forgive. And remember.
They say you can't go back, but the really amazing thing is that you can. You can sit in a Starbucks at 6:34am on a Friday morning in February with your cup of coffee and computer and your mind and you can go back. To the land before commitment and career and kids, to the campus of not yet knowing, to the fun and the frolic and the ferocious learning. To the four years that slipped by so fast because you were not yet a creature desperate to pause things, to arrest time, to hold on.
This has been fun for me. This little exercise in going back. And now I must do a different kind going back. Back to the home front and the three tiny things in pajamas who have it all ahead of them. That is pretty incredible too.
Who were you in college? Any fun memories? Have you changed a lot since your stint as an undergrad? Do you think it is presumptuous for me to assume most of you attended college? Are most people you know, and socialize with, college grads? I know several of you are still in college, so share your stories since you are experiencing them now and we would all like to live vicariously!