Why the fuck am I so nostalgic for college?


I started college in 2010, and before any of you get on my case about my use of the term college let me tell you, Americans say college when they talk about university because they are referring to the individual colleges within Universities. Its in the American vernacular, what am I going to do about it? It not technically wrong, get over your self.
People always told me college was going to be the best years of my life. I never believed them. But looking back now, maybe they were right?

My freshmen year of college I lived in a dorm smack in the middle of manhattan, on my own for the first time in 18 years. I don’t really know whose stupid idea this was (mine) but I guess one way to learn to be independent is to move to a different continent, to one of the harshest cities in the world, where you know no one.

In a recent article on Man Repeller Philip Ellis pondered how ‘To all the boys I have loved before’ makes people nostalgic for a high school experience they never had, a romanticised version of the experience you wish you had.
I had a similar moment a few years ago when reading ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ by Marina Keegan. I so deeply identified with this feelings of belong, the camaraderie, the all in this together high school musical moment. A time when messy hair and sweat pants don’t matter, some how it feels like its always snowy and everything is muted, people are overly sleep deprived and you are all pulling on the same rope just trying to finish your finals whilst surviving on pop tarts and coffee.
I once finished an essay with sopping wet hair on the floor under the stairs of the student lounge, submitting it seconds before the deadline (no proof reading, yolo) my friend and I then went back to my dorm-room and fell asleep to the xx in my tiny single bed in my triple room. We woke up in time to go to a Christmas party deep in Brooklyn, all the while it was heavily snowing.
I remember in the moment that it didn’t feel great. It didn’t feel special. In fact as it was happening I think I hated it. I was depressed, I was miserable. I hated everything and wanted out. I felt like I was all alone and completely isolated. College wasn’t living up to the fantasy I had thought it was going to be. It was like I had watched a college version of ‘To all the boys I have loved before’ and was longing for an experience that didn’t exist.

But in hindsight wasn’t it a magical time? My best friend lived three floors below me and I could hear him coming a mile aways (he has a truly unique and some what loud laugh , also he likes to laugh)
We got coffee at 2am, I finished essays while he made models, without planning some how all my friends ran into each other in the dining hall every night (obviously because we were on a mandatory meal plan and if you didn’t get there early all the food would be gone, but still)
It was wonderful. Never again are all your friends no more than 2 minutes away. Your only responsibility is laundry and feeding your self the terrible cafeteria pizza. I was miserable sharing my room with two people and having no privacy but I also lived for the nights when my roommate and I would listen to Britney Spears’ entire discography, laughing hysterically for hours each in our respective beds.

I am an adult now. I pay all my own bills. I have an apartment, I have a life and responsibilities with real life consequences. Objectively my life is better now! I finally have agency! So why am I all of a sudden nostalgic for a time when I didn’t?

Maybe thats it. Back then I felt like I could do any thing. My professors inspired me. I was going to change the world through art. We were going to stage plays in unusual places, call attention to injustice and save the world. Everything felt important, everything was meaningful. But nothing we did had any real life ramifications, even when we fucked up it was within a safety net. So we did our worst.  Plot twist almost all of us now have corporate jobs – what?!

We graduated and it all meant nothing. We all dispersed. I lost touch with people who meant so much to me (still friends with the two I mentioned above, my boy still coming through with his laugh, I am excited to hear it again when this is all over)

Unlike Marina Keegan I didn’t go to an Ivy league, I didn’t have a campus, there were no footballs games or school spirit and yet I know exactly what she is talking about.  

I often dream about going back. What would I do differently? Which classes would I take? I would really enjoy all the moments that I didn’t realize where special as they happened ( but does any one ever, hind sight really is 20/20.) But I can’t. I am an adult now. Nearly 10 years have passed since I first started college. Its never going to be the same.

It bugs me to think that the old cliche of ‘the grass is always greener’ is true. Maybe college wasn’t as magical as I remember it being, but it feels like it now, and maybe that’s all that matters.

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