A long-awaited return to my alma mater nearly forty years since I walked its campus. Returning is a rite of passage, to proudly wear your college ring among those whose rings still gleam devoid of dents or scratches. My ring is tarnished, showing the signs of age, as are we all. Sliding it on, it just wouldn’t fit. I could squeeze into it but it may become a permanent fixture. It would miss its triumphant return today.
The preparations for the visit took me aback: finding a hotel, securing parking passes, deciphering shuttle schedules, packing a suitcase and counting out meds for an overnight trip. When I used to wear the ring, I’d grab my cleanest dirty shirt, a couple of bucks and I was in my way. A good mile or two walk was an everyday occurrence, but today, it was not even considered.
Nearing our destination, the campus greeted us much sooner than it used to. My school, which was huge back then, had doubled in size, both physically and in student count. Searching for some semblance of direction, the buildings I knew so well had been engulfed by multistory conglomerations of classrooms. Pathways I’d traverse had been replaced by imposing towers of glass and stone. Trees I sat under were either surrounded by asphalt or had vanished completely. It was clear much more than my ring didn’t fit.
When I used to wear it, thousands of people scurrying by was a normal day between classes. Today, it was overwhelming (granted it was more like 100 thousand). When I used to wear it, sunburn was a small price to pay for a good football game. Today it was sunscreen, hats, fans, and bottled water. I used to attend the games to see what the girls were and were not wearing. Today, the kindergarten kids masquerading as college students needed a little less “daisy” and a little more “duke”.
I observed students being polite to us “older” folk and I hope I had been just as considerate. There were too many who had little or no regard. Young couples introduced sweethearts to parents, chatting about rings and future plans. Gazing at the 50-yard line, memories emerged of a time with my “forever?” sweetheart looking at the stars and dreaming dreams. Oh, what dreams have been achieved, only in a different place, with a different spouse.
So many things did not fit, much more than just a ring. It took a long, exhausting trip (and a thrilling football game) to remind me of who I was and who I’ve become since. And it was good.
I guess sometimes you have to be a little lost in order to find your way. If you ever wonder how far you’ve come, take a moment to look back and count your footsteps.
If you’ve felt the same, email me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story.
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