Going Back

I’ve been thinking about going back to school. Planning to, actually, and the sooner the better. I’ve been admitted to a college in the area; I just have to work out the practical/financial side. I’d already be there now if I could afford it.

But another thought has been occupying my mind the past few days—of the college I left more than a decade ago. I started to idly wonder, “What if I could go back there? Finish what I started back then?” And the thought would not leave me. It took root and began occupying most of my brain and my dreams at night and wouldn’t let go.

I don’t know why it’s taken such a strong hold on me. I know I’ve been prone to restlessness lately—which is nothing new for me, but lately it’s even more so than usual—fantasizing about taking to the highway, the life here be damned. Enough with the nonstop ringing of the office phone, and the scan pile, and the commute (at least an hour one-way, and that’s if traffic is light that day), and trying to fit my actual life into the (only) two and a half free hours at the end of the day, before I have to go to bed and get ready to do it all again, then again, then again—enough of all that. Just drive. Hit the highway and just drive to wherever it takes you.

But I’ve always had that urge to some degree or another—to just drive, leave everything, start over somewhere new. Usually it passes. And I would never really, actually do that, no matter how much I want to in the moment. Thinking about going back to my first college—probably just a different spin on the same urge.

I’m remembering everything I loved about the place. Because I did love it. Before everything that led me to leave, I loved it there. The camaraderie with the others in my classes. Sitting up all night with friends and talking for hours. The all-night study sessions at the 24-hour diner near campus. The weekends we’d drive to nearby towns and listen to bands play in bars and in tiny, hole-in-the-wall clubs.

And I think about my life now, and my life then, and I think, I could go back. They do have other “non-traditional” students there. And this time would be different. I’m not 19 anymore; I’d have a lot more figured out this second time around then I did back then. I have plenty of experience, with college work and with real-world, nine-to-five work. And this time I wouldn’t be trying to “do school” while watching my whole world implode. This time I wouldn’t just eke by in my courses; I’d kick ass and take names. I’d finish the English degree I started then, and maybe, maybe, when I finished, I’d be a tiny bit closer to at least one piece of the life I could have had. If only I had stayed.

That’s probably what’s driving this urge, now that I think about it. What could have been. Maybe it’s not about wishing I had a degree from that school so much as it is about wishing I could turn back the clock. Because I’m not 19 anymore. Maybe that’s what I miss—not the place, but the time. The feeling that the world was just out there, waiting, and anything was possible. And when the bulk of my time is spent is sitting in this office, typing invoices and running sheets of paper through a scanner, the thought of retreating from the “real” world for a year or two—sitting in an ivory tower, studying literature and writing stories—sounds wonderfully appealing.

I’m sure these thoughts will pass, too. Eventually. Just like the thought of saying “fuck this” and driving away from it all always passes. Money and distance make it—well, not a completely impossible plan, but a challenging one at best. And I haven’t forgotten why I left.

And yet—what if I could make it work?

What if?

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