Approaching the end of four years, a reserve of memories swell in my mind as I look back at the time that will hereby be referred to only in the past tense as “college.” Not college, per say, but “college,” as in my experience of college, unique only to myself and to no one else – just as yours is to you – yet so full of other people, places and things that it would be an injustice to give myself even the slightest bit of credit for turning these four years into the what they’ve become.
“College” was a blast, literally and figuratively. It was drunken nights and fist fights – most often involving myself and a beer can. It was basketball and “packing the Palestra” with the best and rowdiest fans in Division-III basketball. It was Kairos in the fall and Newman mass on Sunday nights. It was writing for the Campus Times and finding a voice. It was senior nights and grimy bus rides. It was finding that rare gem in otherwise lousy food. It was long days spent on the balcony in Phase. It was Delta Kappa Epsilon on a Friday night. It was “Left Field Fans.” It was always searching and sometimes finding. It was black eyes and bruises along the way.
For many, my experience of “college” is just like yours, only instead of “Left Field Fans,” you might be more likely to remember “Wilson Commons Wednesdays.” Instead of “packing the Palestra,” you may find solace in “URTV meetings” on a Thursday night.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in four years, it’s that college is whatever you choose to put in between the quotations.
And while reminiscing over our college years, there’s endless meaning that can be found in those small, throwaway moments that, if taken for something greater than mere minutiae, shine light on the meaning of being young.
These are moments that, while beautiful at the time, appear dispensable. They may stick with you for a briefly, only to be lost in the haze, forgotten by virtue of the more universal episodes preferred by peers. They don’t seem to matter.
Whereas our friends are quick to reminisce about big occasions like the Sigma Alpha Mu Beach Party from this past spring or D-Day sophomore year – and with legitimate reason – I argue that one’s fondest memories of college will be those brief moments of clarity and unadulterated beauty, separate from the structured nature of everyday college life, where you take a moment to breathe and appreciate where you are and how you got there.
For me, it’s sitting in the passenger seat of a red Jeep Wrangler, top down, cruising freely along Wilson Boulevard. The weather is a crisp, cool 70 degrees on the first real day of spring – that day we all know so well, when we’re finally able to drop all worries and anxiety, forgetting to go to classes and opting instead to bask in the newfound joy of sunshine on our backs after what seemed like an endless spell of cruel Rochester winter. Students are scattered throughout campus as we drive by, tossing footballs and lying in the sun as they fully indulge in this sacred moment.
It’s gliding through the mid-day sky with a best friend, mindlessly listening to a song that could only fit at this exact moment, as if the gods had come down to Earth simply to synchronize this melody with the images of pure beauty floating before me. The soundtrack to my life had started to play, and the end credits were ready to roll.
It’s feeling the words as they’re sung to me, understanding that the song is not so much music at this point as a direct address to me, an encapsulation of my life thus far, an abridged version of college, a homily as sung by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
And they go like this: “Listen closely to what I say, and if you do this it will help you some sunny day. Take your time, don’t live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass. Go find a woman and you’ll find love. And don’t forget, son, there is Someone up above.”
As the lyrics to “Simple Man” fade out, life continues as it were, my friend knowing none the better as he drives along the open road. To him, we’re just college students enjoying the beautiful day. And he’s right: we’re just college students enjoying the beautiful day.
As we continue to travel endless roads, we take time to break away from the quotations and remember college for what it was, pure and simple – a beautiful ride.
Milbrand is a member of the class of 2008.