Leaving college again
by Chelsea Boes
Posted on Thursday, April 23, 2015, at 4:29 pm
When I graduated from college, I fell headlong into sleep—in the long and the short view. On the way home to New York when my family and I stopped for dinner, I immediately fell asleep on the restaurant table. And almost literally, I kept sleeping for months.
I felt only one regret upon departing my alma mater: If only, if only, college lasted three years instead of four. If I hadn’t had to stare down that final, difficult year—most of which I passed sick and spent on the dorm couch—I would have departed with a sweeter taste in my mouth. I did not just close the door to my college years; out of respect for my depleted mental and physical reserves, I slammed it.
Or I tried to.
After a year of near convalescence in my childhood home, I married a man still deeply tied to the school I had tried to leave behind. He was still a student and would remain one for the first year of our marriage. That meant moving back to Virginia. It meant mingling again in the demanding academic setting I blamed for my discomfort and bad health. I grumbled. But I loved Jonathan, so I went.
Why is it that one painful aspect of a situation can blot all its goodness from your mind? I have wondered that often during my college recoup. I once believed my school nourished me in the sweetest ways possible. It gave me a stellar education, teaching me not what to think but how to think. It gave me unforgettable friends of every stripe, invaluable connections, and provided the safest, most stimulating place for me to grow up. I believed all that—but for a year, I forgot that I believed it.
In just a few weeks, my husband Jonathan will don the same black robe and cap—decked with several more tassels than mine—and revel in his own graduation day. At last, college life will part from us.
But it is not the triumphant experience I dreamed. For during this year, the college community has gently surrounded me again, reluctant as I was. I have come to see Jonathan’s philosophical friends—who pile into our tiny apartment like too many clowns into a car—as irreplaceable parts of my life. Who, when we go, will replace tall Clayton from Idaho who knows everything about Owen Barfield? Who will stand in for Max from California, the master of finding weird stuff on YouTube? Who will be our new Richard from Maine, who hauls his telescope out to our driveway in the middle of a summer night?
I do long for the day—in heaven, I guess—when no roads fork and no one ever leaves anyone behind. God is in the business of wiping tears from eyes—and, as I learned this year, of replacing your bitterness with a second chance. I never thought I would say I’m glad college lasted five years instead of four. But I am.