There was once a time when I would literally count down the days and hours between visits to my alma mater. From the minute I could see the campus sprawling out before me from the highway in the distance, I got this uncontrollable feeling of euphoria and comfort in my stomach. There on that hill was my home–not the one where I spent most of my time, but the one where I spent three and a half of the most formative years of my life. (I graduated early so I could take an extra internship. #PGP.) It was the place I’d turned into my personal playground. I knew every inch of not only campus, but the college town and surrounding areas. It’s where my friends were, where my fraternity house was, and where my favorite bars and restaurants were, and it always promised a weekend of debauchery and the recapturing of lost youth. To me, there’s no greater paradise, even though most of the year, it’s a frozen hellhole that makes Arendelle look like a Miami beach.
And this past weekend, for the first time since graduation, I skipped Homecoming.
Yeah, that’s right. I didn’t go to Homecoming. I’m sure that effigies of me were burned and dragged through the streets of Syracuse.
I didn’t go for a number of reasons: I had to do something for work. Didn’t really feel like driving five hours. Didn’t want to drop a couple bills on a train or flight, and not to mention, a hotel room and all the other incidental money I’d spend on food or at the bars. I didn’t really feel like seeing Florida State “f**k my team right in the pussy,” to paraphrase the Seminoles’ quarterback, because our athletic director decided, in his infinite ineptitude, to make our homecoming game against the then #1 team in the country. Then there was the fact that most of my friends weren’t going, and 75 percent of us live in the same city, so that, coupled with the perfect storm of reasons above, led me to cancel my trip.
How do I feel? Mostly ambivalent, honestly.
Do I yearn to set foot in my old fraternity house, crack a couple of Nattys, and rage balls like a 21-year-old? Absolutely. Do I want to get shitfaced at my favorite college bar and sing “Livin’ On A Prayer” at the top of my lungs to some scantily-clad 19-year-old? Yeah, but don’t tell my girlfriend. Seriously bro, be cool. Do I want to sit at my favorite diner with a cup of its incredible coffee and a plate full of fattening food, recounting the night before with my best friends? More than anything.
But therein lies the problem: I want to act like a 21-year-old and do things with my friends just like I used to in college, and then I inevitably come to the realization that I will never be that person ever again. That time is over for me, and it’s never coming back; instead of being a snot-nosed little shit with my future in front of me being lectured by some old, bitter bastard alumnus who thinks he knows everything, I’ve become the old, bitter alum. And that’s a big fucking bummer.
Instead of taking last weekend to look back, I looked forward. I did some work and a couple other things to figure out where I stand now, both personally and professionally, and I even took a class to enhance my skills and become better at what I do. I took time to see some of my newer friends and work on my relationships with them, because that’s what it’s all about, really.
I will always love my alma mater with all my heart, and it will always feel like home to me, but it’s not my home anymore. It’s some other kid’s. It’s his turn to get messed up and do incredibly stupid shit, make horribly risky decisions, and come within a hair’s breadth of fucking up his entire life beyond recognition, and it’s my turn to grow up. I beat myself up over the decision of whether or not to go to Homecoming, and I wish I didn’t, because it shouldn’t have been that hard. It’s just what it is. Real life gets in the way. Shit happens. Your school will still be there when you get back, barring total annihilation from Ebola. It’s not going anywhere, so don’t sweat missing one Homecoming out of the God knows how many you’ll have in your lifetime.
But you bet your sweet ass I’ll be there for my fraternity alumni weekend in the spring. I’ll be there with bells on..