Move in day has happened! The campus I work on is now populated by both confused looking freshman as well as more confident upper-classmen. I’m frequently mistaken for a student worker (met with questions about my major and year), and have certainly confused many people with the fact that I am neither a current student nor an alum (While the school does have its staff heavily stocked with alumni, it is by no means a pre-requisite for employment).
My time at a small, liberal arts college has been the best four years of my life to date, hands down and no competition. I had hoped to recreate that magic at graduate school, but we all know how much that failed. College was perfect for me. I made real friends, friends I actually wanted to spend time with, for the first time in my life. I got out of the toxic environment at my parents’ house and moved six hours away. I thrived on the structured independence and it felt good take interesting classes and excelling academically (which is not to say that I didn’t have my challenges, frustrations, and baffling D’s). I’m quite jealous of all the students starting college right now, because I know I will never be able to recreate what I had during that time. I know it was good because I actually appreciated all these things while they were happening, it’s not merely nostalgia. I knew I had a good thing going while I was enrolled, I just didn’t know how tough and unsatisfying the outside world would end up being.
I’ve been out of school for four years now, which is as long as I was an actual student. Three of those years have been completely miserable, to the point where I knew that if things didn’t improve I couldn’t sustain what I had going. This year… I can’t say this year has been better, what with losing my grandparents, but in terms of a happy professional life it has taken an upswing.
And mid-month, I too will go back to school. I don’t know what to expect from online-only classes, but I know that there is no hope of them recreating my undergrad experience. Perhaps that’s for the best and I need to move no from my nostalgia. Hopefully it is the force that really pushes this upswing and allows me to live a life I am actually happy with. I won’t know until I finish and begin applying for higher-level jobs and that’s at least two years away.
I’m certainly occupying a strange space right now: working at an undergraduate institution, registering and purchasing materials for my own classes, working with students to help meet their academic needs and remembering what my mindset was when I was in there position.
Ah, to return to the good old days.