Wednesday, February 24, 2016

And I drove out of there with no one behind me...feeling funny and free

It's 17 years ago this May, but the day I drove away from my house on Madison and off of the University of Delaware campus, leaving my footloose and fancy free college self behind, is still crystal clear to me.

I had a mix CD in my car, and I heard Reunion by the Indigo Girls and Wildflowers by Tom Petty before I got on 95 to head north towards home. Looking in the rear view mirror, it seemed like it had all already slipped away even though it was still in view. It passed in the blink of an eye.

In true egocentric early 20s fashion, I was overly dramatic about the end of this college era. I felt bereft, ripped from the familiar, thrust forward before I was ready to witness the death of some less responsible, more carefree versions of myself. I had bills in college and I had worked beginning at 16, so the work and bills aspect of real life weren't exactly new concepts to me. My parents didn't go to college. I knew it was a privilege for me to go - did I do it right? What if I didn't? More than the mundane details of adult life, I think I was afraid that leaving meant a turning point I couldn't cross through again. I felt like I was closing the door on endless possibility.

While I've absolutely done things on a whim and felt freedom in the years between college and now, it's never been in quite the same way because I've never been as open to possibility as I was then. That day I feel like I could've stood in the middle of a great plain full of possibilities and gone whichever way the wind blew me. In years since, I've learned to tame the wind.

When I think about it now and how hard it felt then, I know it wasn't the huge deal I made it out to be. Life went on, quickly. I adapted to being back home. I found a job and stayed there for three years, and what I did there put me on a trajectory career-wise that I'm still on today. I'd never go back to my 20s, or to any previous age. But when I think about it I still feel little threads of melancholy over that state of being young in a time of timelessness.

Just another things I think about post, like last Wednesday's 90/10 post. I write these whenever they come to mind but don't always publish them. I've been trying to be better about that - to push publish on random writings that don't feel finished to me and are unrelated to anything in my life at the time they're written. I mean, if I wait to write about something until my thoughts on a subject are complete or until I can connect it to something that's happening currently, I'll be waiting forever. And I do hate waiting. So thanks for indulging me.

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33 comments:

  1. Bittersweet is definitely the word. Time goes by so fast.

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  2. Definitely a great way to describe that feeling!! Hard to believe how much we change between college and post grad life - but for the best I think lol! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  3. Leaving the college bubble is tough when it's staring you in the face. Honestly sometimes I still reminisce and long for those carefree days. But, I wouldn't' trade where I am for anything in the world.

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  4. I didn't feel that way because I went straight into law school, and no one parties like law students. It felt like extending my college time by 3 years. But after that, ohhh yeah definitely hit me. I actually would go back to the college years. I had a great time, I'd re-live it for sure.

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  5. I love posts like these - just memories & emotion of life. Keep hitting publish :)
    Oh... the freedom & excitement that came with being young. Those were the days :)

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  6. I definitely understand where you are coming from...it's funny how the person that you were then can be so different and yet so much the same as who you are now. I feel nostalgic about things all the time, and there's really no way out of it besides just remembering the old times fondly and appreciating the present moment as much as possible...but time passing is still very bittersweet. love this post :)

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  7. These are always my favorite kinds of posts to read. It is strange to sometimes look back on that feeling of freedom you had when you first leave home. It's like the possibilities are endless.

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  8. You paint such a clear picture when you write. Loved this post!

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  9. I loved how well you wrote this post. I remember a lot of the same feelings when leaving college. Thanks for sharing this and helping me reflect back on that time!

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  10. I moved out when I was eighteen, and worked and did the whole college thing that way. I remember the day I drove into my new apartment complex on my own after working. 311 was the cd in my car, and I was excited and also scared to become an adult. I was also kind of pissed because I wasn't ready for all that yet, but as many life changes as I have had since then, that day is so clear, and one of the few moments I can recall being IN the moment as it was happening. I kind of miss that age, or rather, I wish I had appreciated it more for what it was, if that makes sense. I love this post today, Steph!

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  11. I definitely miss my younger years and wish I'd made better use of my time then.

    I spend a lot of time thinking about moments that changed my life, I couldn't see them then for what they were but looking back I can see the markers of how my life came to be.

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  12. I reflect on times like that, too. Almost like turning points where I went left but could have gone right, and in some cases, I do wonder what if. Not with sadness, but I do focus on how one choice, or the way the wind was blowing that day, to use your metaphor, has shaped every moment since and gotten me here. The older I get, the fewer turning points there seem to be.

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  13. i love this post and you should push "publish" on stuff like this :)

    reflecting is such an important part of life; it really makes you proud of how far you've come :)

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  14. Oh goodness. Yes. All the yes. I definitely felt this way all through college and often do approaching new decisions. I was also a first generation college student. One of my advisers was exasperated trying to understand how weighty any decision was to me once, when I finally said, "I'm the first one in my family to go to college!" He took a step back and realized that by default everything was a little different for me than it was for most students he was used to. I'm also the oldest kid. So every big decision feels SO big. I'm trying to let go a little and focus on what I want right now work with my husband on that stuff and avoid the crazy that can spiral when I try to consider anything too far ahead. It's tough, but a work in progress. I hear every year is a little easier. I hope so. Thanks for writing this! XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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  15. Your random thoughts may not feel finished to you but could be exactly what one of your readers needs to hear so publish away! Your writing is always full of emotion whether it be rage, soothing, hilarious it all hits it's mark.

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  16. I felt the exact same way. College was such a unique experience and nothing will compare. I love reading these posts!

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  17. College is a big privilege, however, my life would be vastly different if I had gone to college. Beyond ecstatic that my chickens are college graduates. Keep on sharing your memories and thoughts.
    Love. Your. Momma.

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  18. Man I felt so similar when I left college. I was the first to graduate from college as well. I felt a lot of pressure to do it right. Even though I appreciated it (and enjoyed it) when I was there, now when I look back I wish I could tell myself to enjoy it more.

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  19. Two of my favorite people in that picture :)

    I'm so glad you hit publish on this post. That last day was an incredibly emotional day and I can't believe it's been almost 17 years. It's amazing how much we've all changed but also haven't.

    We had a good time in college. Definitely the best 4 years I'd never do again.

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  20. i love posts like this from you. it's so raw and real and I feel like i'm in the moment. makes me remember why i started reading on blogs in the first place. we all have moments in time that stand out like this makes me think of my time when i left college.

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  21. Love this. Things seemed harder and scarier then, and I think back now like "what the hell was I so worried about?!" I love who am I/where I am today, but I would go back to being a senior in college in an instant.

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  22. It really is a crazy feeling when you leave college and all of a sudden you're in the real world. I wondered the same thing about if I had done college right.

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  23. For whatever reason, I've been listening to a lot of old Tori Amos and Indigo Girls lately, so in that nostalgic way of thinking about how huge all things felt back then, I can relate!

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  24. You write so well! It's that fear of the unknown and shift in life that takes you out of your comfort zone. Been there... done that for sure!

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  25. Ahh, college. I left college with no job and moved back in with my parents- so I felt more trapped than anything for that first 6 months post-grad. The possibilities didn't even seem to exist for me! Great writing, Steph :)

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  26. I definitely get the same feelings about college and post-college me, it's definitely a timeless and care free time that I'm sad we'll never get back. My 30's have been way better than my 20's as well, but it still makes me sad sometimes. Great post!

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  27. Sometimes I think what college Nadine would think about today Nadine. My life turned out very different than I imagined, but in a good way. It is a crazy feeling being young and done with college with the world full of possibility!!! But I wouldn't go back either.

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  28. Love this . . . and I've definitely felt this way a various points. It's scary and exciting all at the same time. I think these posts are awesome.

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  29. That is such a funny moment in time. Looking forward to adulthood with your dabbling in it being set against the college backdrop. Definitely a moment in time like no other. I like reading your thoughts! Keep posting them. :)

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  30. I only ever went to community college so I never experienced this kind of thing specifically... I do feel it about my early 20s in general though. I wouldn't go back either... life is better now... but sometimes it's fun to think about how awesome I used to think it was back then.

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  31. i never went to a real college - i did all my uni online, a few years later than i was 'supposed' to, but i totally remember this feeling kind of, and the feeling now. i've taken risks and stuff, but you hit the nail on the head 'I've never been as open to possibility as I was then'. So true. i would never go back either, but i have this strange feeling about that time, the early twenties or even late teens... i mean, i'm still in my twenties so i'm sure i will feel even more so as i get older. it's a weird feeling.

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  32. It is amazing to me how deeply I felt about leaving college. It was such a time of open possibilities but also a lot of fear of what was to come, and if I would find a job. I wish I was that carefree again but I wouldn't want to go back to that time either.

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  33. Keep pressing publish. I remember feeling the same angsty way when college was over. At the time I was the only one in my class without a job, so I definitely felt like I had failed, but you're right - life went on - and quickly at that. It was a remarkable time for self discovery and adventure though... Thanks for sharing something that resonated with my experience, too. ;) Goes back to your post the other day about people understanding more than we think they do.

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