My college town will always hold a special place in my heart. It is the first place I got laid, where I met many of my friends, and had many close run-ins with our campus boys in blue. Life in a college town, as a student, seems to not be real life. However, postgradding in a college town really isn’t as glamorous as being a student.
I sent out applications far and wide. Places with beaches, mountains, flat mid-western cornfield towns I didn’t really want to live in, and of course, my college town. Securing the elusive job was my priority and I could eat a few years of shit sandwiches to get that “2-4 years of experience” anywhere. The next thing I know, I get a call from HR for an interview from a job at my alma mater that I don’t remember applying for. I nailed the interview and got the job. Time to live it up in my awesome college town!
Then reality set in.
Postgradding in any college town is difficult, but especially so if it’s where you went to school. Those cops that used to bust your parties give you the “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” glance whenever you see them. Bars that let people 18+ in are off limits. I look forward to the students not being here due to less traffic. I loathe the students because they are obnoxious, loud, and are everything I used to be. Every day is a reminder that the town caters to the students, as it should be, because they are its lifeblood.
Everywhere I go is a reminder of something. Behind the library is where we used to piss on the way home from bars. That Mexican restaurant that I frequent for lunch and “team-building” used to serve me underage. The place I go on dates with new flames have been the same places I went with previous girlfriends. I’ve done everything that the town has to offer.
The metamorphosis to becoming a townie is slow but true. Each year, the growing divide between your favorite undergrad bars to “young professional” bars greatens. Drinks are double the price and it’s like a feeding frenzy for depressed and sexually frustrated working postgrads. I avoid these places because the only conversations that take place are about work and Tinder, something I have too much pride to ever use.
I used to go visit my old fraternity house when they’d have their beginning of the year party. I had just finished grad school and was “talking to” a sorority girl. She asked how old I was, and of course, I lied (I was 24, nearly 25) and declared, “I’m 23.” She gave me a look like Jerry Sandusky had just arrived at a Chuckie Cheese in a white, windowless industrial van. “Oh,” she said, “Are you a 5th-year? I’m 19.” If there were ever a single moment that highlighted the transition to postgrad, it was this one.
In the real world, the age separation doesn’t matter and many couples have this age gap. But to her, I was Father Time. I’m lucky to look young enough to be a grad student and avoid the glaring eyes of anyone who may have a few wisps of grey, but the feeling of not belonging is palpable. The worst is going out for drinks, being a few deep, and wishing you could take the next day off and party like it’s 2011. Responsibility kicks in, and I’ve been trying to avoid the “shit show” stereotype as I’m the only unmarried or not engaged person in the office.
Sometimes I’ll even talk to students. I remember the seniors and postgrads that came back telling me “enjoy it while you can because life is a lot harder.” No one truly understands this until they experience it. It is a bittersweet feeling and the seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake. The endgame of college is to prepare oneself for the job market, so all good things must come to an end. Now, when I talk to students I remind them of the momento mori: “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.” Those Latin philosophizers were into some really deep shit..