The morning after graduation, you feel it in your stomach. You recognize it right away: It’s the dull ache of a breakup.
Four years, gone. There’s a small ping somewhere in your belly that maybe it doesn’t have to be over. Maybe the Dean changes his mind. Maybe you can just stay here and live with these people forever. You swallow it down because you know better.
If you’re honest with yourself, you can admit something hasn’t been right lately. It’s not like the old days. You see the freshmen and their relentless optimism. They’re deep in lust, head over heels for their college experience. You remember what that felt like — to lie on your back in a grassy quad, thinking you were the luckiest kid in the world.
But you haven’t felt that way for awhile. You still love college, you’re just not in love with college anymore. As you’ve grown up, you’ve grown apart. You’re starting to get hungry for something new.
Luckily, you don’t have a choice. Whether you like it or not, college breaks up with you. You pack your dorm into boxes. You ship out. It sucks.
Breakups, with college or otherwise, have a way of stirring the sand under your feet. Memories are spun up by the wind and bite your ankles. Old insecurities nip at your exposed skin. Some blow away — lost forever. Others stick to your toes.
Don’t be frightened. It’s just sand. It always settles.
For awhile, it’s uncomfortable. The breakup forces you to reevaluate yourself. You question who you are and what you’re going to do tomorrow. Maybe you rebound too fast and end up with a job you hate. Maybe you shuffle your feet in your parents’ basement for a few months, broke and miserable.
August rolls around, and the first photos of fall semester turn up on social media. You feel pangs of jealousy.
Life goes on. For the first couple of months, you cling to what’s easy — texting mostly your college friends. When you’re ready, you start seeing other people. At first, you talk about college too much. Then less.
Slowly, you start to move on. You find something else in this world that makes you happy. Maybe it’s a job, maybe it’s a bicycle. Sure, you still have days when you feel lonely, but they come less and less. You learn to appreciate college for what it was, without necessarily wanting it back in your life.
Before you know it, a year passes, and it’s almost Alumni Weekend. You start debating whether to go. You miss your friends tremendously, but the thought of going back to campus makes your stomach queasy. You’re not sure you’re ready to see your ex with other people.
It feels so long ago. You realize you haven’t grown up much. If anything, you grew down. You inexplicably grew roots in the sand. You still don’t have all the answers, but at least you’re laying a foundation.
Sometimes it takes getting dumped to figure out who you are and what you value. When college breaks up with you, don’t take it personally. Remember that the aches you feel are just growing pains. Know that when you’re ready, you will learn to fall in love with life all over again.