Monday, April 14, 2008

Snowball fights, cheap beer and great conversation

It could have been the first time I watched, horrified, a glorious ice cream cone melt away through my fingers, or the realisation (courtesy of a careless younger brother) that Lego fortresses aren’t quite as indestructible as a young military mind might hope. I don’t know when it happened, but one the first lessons life ever taught me must have been that change is inevitable and affects all. As a final year student approaching the end of college, change again comes knocking, but this time the stakes seem just a little bit higher than the state of a Lego outpost at the foot of my bed.

So many conflicting emotions intertwine when thinking about leaving college; sorrow, excitement, fear - all buzzing and babbling, scrambling for my attention.

It feels like something fundamental is coming to an end and that loose ends, should we have any, must be tied now or remain forever unattended. An ultimatum has been issued, and we may wonder whether it is time to mend a rift, or tell that someone, or to finish whatever it is we feel we still have to do. We don’t need the masks we wear anymore as saving face no longer matters.

I remember leaving school, and of course there was a sense of uncertainty, of new beginnings, and to a degree, of finality. But somehow it never seemed as real as the prospect of leaving college does now. When I left school I knew I’d still be home at weekends, that I’d still have my teenage security blanket that was cooked meals and freshly ironed laundry; I’ll be the first to admit that while my head and heart may have flew the coup, my wallet and stomach hung on a little more earnestly. And of course as time went on, and as I become more and more addicted to the student lifestyle, I went home less and less. But there was always that sense that I really hadn’t grown up yet; the debt collector was just a benign lady called mother, rather than a slickly-dressed bank manager looking to repossess the house.

Then there is that strange feeling of being out of time. One foot is in the present, another the future, while another reaches back nostalgically over old ground – never mind how strange it would be to have all three legs necessary for such a feat. Between concentrating on studying for impending exams, this year and next, post-grads and careers – all the while looking over the past three years – it’s almost hard to know where one is at all.

It might sound cheesy, but I really do believe that the experiences of these last three years are the ones that I will remember all my life. Memories of the weird, the funny, the random, and the spontaneous are etched irremovably in my mind; many happy, a few sad, but none mundane. I’m glad to say that my memories are nearly all of good times, and there were so very many: snowball fights outside the campus apartments, parties where you hardly knew anyone’s name and still didn’t care, ridiculously long lie-ins, midmorning television, bad beer and great conversation, the list goes on. Only a person with the emotion of a Findus crispy pancake could resist uttering at least a small sigh at the end of college.

And of course I’ve learned a lot, much of which wasn’t - and indeed could never have been - taught in any lecture theatre. More than anything else I have learned that I know very little. So many assumptions I had about the life and the world before entering college no longer seem certain anymore. I can only speak about the subjects I’ve studied, but in English in particular, you can forget all you think you know about life and the world. You soon learn that basic assumptions are there only to be shattered.

More than ever before, as all this comes to an end, an opportunity to really prove oneself to the world and find a place in it awaits. It is scary, but incredibly exciting, and as much as I will miss college, the big (not so) bad world is calling and I’m looking forward to it. Everything changes, but the experiences we have will always be ours.

I will end with a quotation by the author Anatole France which describes such change more eloquently than I could ever hope to:

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another".


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