I was a new college student in the fall of 85 and I was falling in love with:
the joy of learning,
a redefined sense of self,
deep conversations that lingered long into the night,
my beloved Purdue campus,
and mostly my friends who made all of those experiences more lively, fun, and meaningful!
Although this wasn't romantic love (that came later), it was every bit as heady and exhilarating. Those first few months of college were magical! I was lucky to have had a smooth transition into college life. I was ready for the new challenge, I was open to change, and I embraced the experience.
I fell in love with Purdue a little more each day as I explored new places. Although Purdue was a large campus, I was able to find little spots that made it seem like my own. As I settled into the new rhythm of my days, I would find places where I could hang out and relax between classes. There was the small fountain near John Purdue's grave where I would sit and watch all the people walk by but somehow still feel like I was alone.
There was the pond behind Stanley Coulter Hall where I spent a lot of time eating granola bars and enjoying the sunshine. There was the spacious bathroom/lounge on the first floor of the union where I could grab a couch and a little nap after my 7:30 am class. (I quickly became comfortable with the public nap!) There was the table in the Union where my friends and I would often congregate throughout the day. We would look forward to grabbing some bread sticks (another Purdue love) and conversation between classes. The ever evolving mix of people became a highlight of my day. There was the excitement of game day where I vividly remember walking across the co-rec fields and over Slayter Hill through the sea of tailgaters. You could always hear the sound of laughter, music, and the steady drum beat of the Purdue marching band.
I regret that we did not have phone cameras at the time because I am sure I would have taken pictures of the leaves changing as I walked to class and I know I would have had pictures of the water splashing out of my little fountain on the mall on a rainy day. I definitely would have taken a picture of the koi fish swimming in the pond and the squirrels crazily gathering acorns underneath the trees.
I thought those areas would always be there and there would be time for pictures later, but time stops for no one. Campuses keep growing and changing, student needs and traditions evolve over time, and now many of my special places aren't there anymore. I am forced to rely on my memory and although the experiences are seared in my mind, the details have grown a little fuzzy with time.
There are so many moments that I wish I could have saved just so I could remember the feeling associated with them. A picture probably wouldn't have captured the size of my brain growing as I learned subjects at a rate I never imagined. I probably wouldn't have taken a selfie at the moment when I was most engaged in class and I could feel everything finally clicking into place. I'm not sure a group photo could have captured the camaraderie that happened during those marathon late night conversations with friends. How do you capture that time on a Saturday before we went out for the night when everyone was getting ready? Hairspray and perfume thick in the air, clothes and shoes swapped to find the perfect look, music playing in our rooms, moods happy and hopeful, all in preparation for the magical night that we were always sure was about to happen. What would that picture look like?
Although I have some pictures of my college years, I don't have nearly enough to equate to all of the special times, places, and people. I am envious that the students today have the ability to easily capture all of their experiences. Their lives are well documented and someday they will appreciate the gift of those detailed memories frozen in time. I am also thankful that I didn't have the ability to easily capture all of my experiences! For every memory I want to see again, there is one (or two) that I would rather not...
When I think of my own college age children, I hope that they are falling in love too! I'm sure they are having plenty of their own memorable moments. They won't look exactly like mine, but I hope they are finding their favorite places on campus and appreciating the quiet and exciting moments along the way. I hope they are recognizing that college is a special time and place in their lives. I hope they are making friendships that will last a lifetime I hope they are taking a lot of pictures.
My experience wasn't all perfect- there were struggles, classes I hated, professors who weren't fair, homework assignments that just about killed me, financial stresses that made life tough, times I disappointed myself and others- but the overall experience was such a gift. If my girls are enjoying their college experience half as much as I did, then I know they will be truly blessed!