This weekend is my 5-year college reunion. I loved my college experience with every fiber of my being. I never imagined I’d miss my 5-year college reunion for the world, but I had little comprehension of the world. College was an oasis where I had four years to spend time exploring and thinking about ideas. A luxury that my grandmother consistently reminded me is not available to most individuals in the world. “You have the opportunity to explore whatever you want,” she would tell me. And I bit into my classes, trying to experience them to my core.
Still, I took the academic nature of Washington University in St. Louis for granted. During my college years, I spent most nights in a comfortable chair on the second floor of the library, a chai tea in one hand and a philosophy book in the other. I remember reading Heidegger. I had to take so many mental steps to be at a point where the light shined down on his reasoning that the clarity would be lost on me once I let my brain drift away. Outside of the zone, I could still recite the main points, but didn’t have the feeling of understanding. While I was in the zone, I was stunned by the brilliance. I could actually feel my brain stretching, pushing beyond its limits of understanding. Every so often I thought I understood life. I always looked around at the library and thought about all the great thoughts individuals had had there before me. It was humbling.
College allowed me to be both selfish and present to the world at the same time. I could explore new theories about the universe and new personal identities in the same day without consequence. I’m not sure who I would be if I didn’t have those four years to quietly get to know and love the contours of my brain. I wish every teenage magazine that spends its pages telling girls to cultivate better relationship with their bodies would tell girls to spend some years courting their brains as well. And then any flaws or beauties in the body fall off.
I had such supportive, intelligent friends at Wash. U. I remember sitting on the steps of Brookings, staring out at the St. Louis skyline in the middle of the night discussing philosophy with friends. I affectionately called it the Dead Philosophers Society. I remember walking through Forest Park with a burning stick of incense trying to better understand the importance of the natural world. I tried yoga for the first time. Listened to my professors debate about war. Organized a protest. And learned how to put my thoughts into columns for the student body to read. And while I expanded my horizons and challenged my understanding of the world, I was sheltered from the realities of having to survive. Instead, I lived on a beautiful campus with wonderful food and an administration that cared how happy I was while I worked to achieve.
As I see my friends posting facebook statuses about their return to our home, the images of the weekend–the underpass painted to welcome home the alumni, the buildings–point to memories. When I think about the way Wash. U. helped shape my mind and character, I am speechless. And insanely jealous of everyone there now. I miss you, dear alma mater.