If you’ve graduated, you’ve been there, and if not, it’s something to look forward to/not look forward to/have mixed feelings towards: visiting your college campus as an alumna. Before we graduate, we convince ourselves that it’ll be exactly the same to make ourselves feel better. Deep down, we know this isn’t the case. I recently paid a visit to my alma mater for my little’s 21st birthday (because I couldn’t possibly allow her first legal trip to my favorite bar occur without ME). It wasn’t my first post-grad visit, and it won’t be my last, just like you’ll frequent your alma mater in years to come. Loosely based on my experiences, here’s an example of how it might go.
11:30am: You are on your way, and around this time your phone starts blowing up with “where are you!?” texts. Your undergrad sisters already want to start drinking. This seems absurd until you realize that one year ago, on a hot and sunny Saturday, 11:30 would’ve been a late start for you.
1:00pm: Arrive at campus and promptly meet your friends on the patio of your favorite bar. They already have a tab open, and you start ordering rounds of Long Island Iced Teas. You feel very compelled to take in and observe your surroundings, rather than just get drunk like you would have as a student. It’s crowded, but not crowded enough. Not as crowded and rowdy as it would’ve been last year, when your class had reign. Silently judge everyone that walks by. Wonder if the student body somehow got uglier and more scholastic. I mean where is everyone, studying?
5:00pm: Now you’re a few Long Islands deep and starting to feel it. The bar is getting more crowded and you’re reminded of the many blurry Saturdays you spent here in your youth (since you’re old now). You run into a bunch of other sorority sisters, who scream about needing a picture with “Pinnies!!” (okay, that part probably didn’t happen to you) and they buy a round of shots of your family liquor. UGH! It never did go down smooth, but a year out of practice and you practically felt it burning your esophagus. Take a million pictures, get introduced to new littles and new boyfriends, until your friends announce that it’s time to leave for something called a dinner reservation.
6:30pm: Post-bar, you’d normally head back to whichever day-drink you started at before the bar even opened, but you actually can’t stomach the thought of moonlighting in a frat backyard right now. You’re a mature woman! Okay, no you’re not, but regardless, your friends have decided to have a big, group dinner at your favorite Mexican place. You’re feeling a little woozy now, until the margarita pitchers start flowing along with the baskets of chips and salsa. You forget whether or not you even ordered dinner until the waitress sits a plate of lettuce and grilled chicken in front of you. The fuck is this? You must’ve been much more sober when you ordered. Thankfully you’re seated next to your guy friend so you spend the next hour or so eating fattening deliciousness off his plate and dipping every last chip you can find into your leftover margarita. Hydration.
8:30pm: Go back to your friend’s place to “rest.” His roommates have a few people over, mostly residual from day drinks, and everybody’s crashing. Throw yourself on the couch and try to pull it together. End up in a deep, philosophical conversation about life with some dude you’ve never met. At some point you fall asleep, maybe on the floor, maybe on the couch next to this random.
10:30pm: Wake up and realize you should already be at the pregame. Your head is spinning, you feel physically ill and completely exhausted. You used to be a pro at the nap-and-rally thing (sometimes you even skipped the nap) but now you realize that your undergrad tolerance is gone and this would be a ginormous struggle. Change into a new outfit and “freshen up” your makeup. Really, you can’t see straight and are just smearing coverup across your face, putting on too much bronzer since you can’t be bothered to find good lighting (or a mirror) and haphazardly drawing black eyeliner wherever it lands. Good to go.
11:30pm: Arrive at pregame-party at the frat you used to frequent as a bright-eyed freshman thirsty for Natty. Throw up in your mouth a little bit at the mere thought of drinking natty and make yourself a mixed drink. Realize this is your ex’s fraternity and instead of being buddy-buddy with the brothers, you barely recognize them short of some guys your sisters are dating that you remember from past formals. The birthday girl is already sloshed and you pose in a bunch of pictures together so she has evidence that you showed up instead of remaining in bed, defeated by your hangover, in your elderly post-grad fashion. Then head to the bar and share sloppy hugs and kisses from people you haven’t seen in a while. It’s weird how much they used to mean to you, whether you were close friends or just study buddies, and now your relationship has been reduced to drunken small-talk about job searching in between rounds of shots. Stop, look around and suddenly get a weird feeling from not knowing everyone in eyesight. There are no past or present hookups, boyfriends, classmates, or just otherwise familiar faces save for the people you showed up with (and of course, the bartenders, because they still remember you).
3:00am: Rub the birthday girls back and then put her to bed in between taking more shots and ordering drunk food at the post-game with the rest of the stragglers. Then walk home arm in arm with your best friend, reminiscing the whole way. You pass different spots of campus and remember, vividly, things that happened there.
When you get up and leave campus the next day, you realize that your college town will always be just a spot on a map. The people and your unique experience is what made it all that it was. So, if you’re still there, remember that you’ll never again be as young as you are right now, be able to drink as much as you can right now, and be surrounded by this many of your friends in one place. Appreciate it, because you can always go back to a campus but you can never return to the lifestyle.
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