Why You Can’t Ever Go Back to Undergrad

They say undergrad will be one of the best times in your life, and in almost all ways it is. They also say that it goes by way too fast, and it does. But what they don’t tell you, is that you can’t ever go back.

Because here’s the thing:

Your undergrad experience isn’t just a place. It’s not a bar or a restaurant, or your apartment. It’s a time. It’s a four-year period when almost all the people you loved, liked, or just wanted to be around (in my case other Western students) were in the same place, not just geographically, but in their lives.

It was a moment where any and every bar were filled with faces that were at least familiar to you. When you couldn’t be on campus, like anywhere on campus, without running into at least 5 people you knew, and this familiarity, this feeling of community felt so solid that it didn’t feel like it could ever end, like it would never not exist, but you come back and you realize that it has. There’s been a diaspora of your graduating class, and it means that even if the places never change, even if they stay there forever, the moment you lived in for four years isn’t something you’re ever going to get back. It’s a moment —a feeling really— that you’re never going to have again.

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A moment of pure undergrad joy captured by the lovely Nicole De Khors

This is the big secret our alumni events committee don’t want us to know. It’s the thing that’s swept under rugs and disguised by promises that alumni events will let you “relive your ‘insert university here’ experience!” It’s the elephant in the room. Because despite the yearly homecomings, the friends you make and manage to keep, and the places staying (relatively) the same. Once your time is up, you can’t go back, not to undergrad and certainly not to the moment you felt the opposite of loneliness, not even for one night. I learned this for myself the hard way recently.

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I came up to visit friends (who are still doing their undergrad), drink, go to ceeps (aka my favourite bar, aka London’s best bar), and honestly, to feel a little like myself again. To for one night be the girl who drinks pornstars, never waits in lines and knows everyone in the room,  a kind of Cinderella night.

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However, it turns out that even though that girl still lives inside me, even though she’ll always live inside me.There are no Cinderella nights for post-grads. Our moment has just simply passed, our clock has struck midnight, our magic nights are over and done and once they’re gone, we can’t get them back.

Now, that isn’t to say I don’t still bleed purple, and happily dance through the pain in four inch heels to Fetty Wap, because on occasion, I do. (Though not for as long or as well as I used to). It’s to say that, for the first time, I’m realizing post-grad is hard, not just because it’s a change, but because in many ways it’s also a huge loss, and I think that without even realizing it, a lot of us grieve for it as such.

So all that being said, I think it’s time. It’s time to shatter this myth, that our undergrad is something we can go back to, can re-visit on for a night or a weekend, or at a homecoming event. And it’s time to stop propagating this myth that we can go back, because believing this doesn’t prepare us for how it feels when our undergrad bubble bursts (and how to cope with that), and it also doesn’t help us enjoy what we have while we still have it.

 

Growing Up is Never “Graceful”

There’s this saying that’s been floating around in my head: “Growing up gracefully,” and I hate it. Like I really fucking hate it. There is no way to grow up gracefully. No way. It’s impossible, implausible it’s impatient, it’s a million other words that start with im but it’s NOT graceful.

As a person who at 21 is still growing up I can attest to this, and I feel like I need to attest to this.

Here’s why:

I graduated in June, looked for jobs over the summer, and was offered a job (at my dream company) literally on the first day of September (it was a Thursday) ((idk why that matters)). For those looking in, that means my life is literally right on track. My t’s are crossed, my eyes are dotted. I’m basically a perfect example of a successful transition from student to fully-functioning young adult professional.

I guess this is all partially accurate. I have done things the way you’re “supposed to”. I have been lucky enough to move on to the next stage of my life quickly and relatively easily.

Check and check and check and check.

But despite all these perfectly crossed t’s and beautifully dotted i’s, I have certainly not as they say “grown up gracefully”.

Exhibit A:

-immediately following graduation in June, I decided not to begin looking for a job as I should have and as I, a shiny new graduate, was “supposed to.” No. I instead decided to have what I called my “Neverland summer” as in I am never growing up. As in I was going to-for-four-months be Peter Pan.

Exhibit B:

-As part of this, I went back to my summer job as a student. I worked at a strawberry farm selling wine, with people I thought were my best friends. Except it wasn’t fun anymore. I didn’t have anything in common with my much younger co-workers. Friendships that had once been my most solid foundation, my summer-job-bragging-right, quickly deteriorated, and with them, so did the only thing that made working a tedious, menial job tolerable.

And Honestly? That was brutal. I lost my friends. I lost my lifestyle and I lost the summer I’d been planning and wishing for the entire school year. I didn’t take any of that very well.

Not very graceful eh?

    Exhibit C:

-After this summer demise, I spent the rest of the summer looking for jobs, not hearing back and getting extremely discouraged. This is turn led to sleeping all day, Netflix binges and all around misery.

                NOT SO GRACEFUL EH?

Luckily before things were too far gone, I got that call. The one that told me I had an interview in a few days. The one that had the potential (not to be dramatic) but the potential to change my life, and it has.

I now work 9-5 five days a week. I commute with what seems to be everyone else on the freaking planet, and spend my down time doing errands, prepping meals for the week or doing other boring things that adults do, or should do, or whatever. Still, I wouldn’t say I’ve entered this new part of my life gracefully.

For one thing, I’m tired all the freaking time, like more tired than I ever thought possible. For another, I honked at a lady today for putting on lipstick at a red light (and almost gave her the finger too). I was once a very polite friendly driver. For another another, I haven’t been to a bar in two weeks (that’s a long time okay?). And in fact, I’m not really sure how to have an adult social life at all. Like what do adults even do for fun? Laundry???

Now, in case you’re reading this and still thinking I sound like I’m not adjusting too badly, I’d like to take a moment to tell you that I am and I’m not. I’d like to tell you that I finished my fourth day of work today and I came home excited to see my boyfriend and my rabbit, but also that my head was fucking killing me after being at work all day.

I’d like to tell you that I’m on the verge of a meltdown because I have to go to bed in like ten minutes and haven’t finished watching my show (which I will now have to pause and finish watching tomorrow after work which is basically like 500 years from now), but also that I’m kind of really excited to see what I get to work on tomorrow at the office.

Finally, I’d like to tell you that I’m not putting into words everything I’m feeling because there’s a chance my boss is reading this. However, I’d also like to tell you that despite all the doubt, the bitter-sweetness and whatever else I’m feeling about beginning this new (and seemingly never-ending) phase of life, I’m really really really grateful to have the opportunity to be where I am, to work where I do, to have the co-workers I do, and that I’m so excited for what’s next as a media production assistant at my new company.

Still though, growing up is hard, change is hard, and transition is really really fucking hard.

I know these things, you know these things, but as a seemingly functioning adult, I feel like it’s my duty to reiterate them, to tell you that no matter how graceful it looks on the outside, there’s nothing graceful about growing up, not at 5,6,7,8,9, not at 12, and definitely not at 21.

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