Thursday, September 06, 2007

Nostalgia

When I was in Boston on Sunday, I saw a lot of fresh-faced college freshmen driving around U-Hauls and carrying big boxes into their new dorms. And it made me feel sad. I'm out of chances to start all over. I wished that I could go back to college and figure out my life again. I would go to a different school, be more confident, look better, care less what other people think of me, and take classes just because they sound interesting. I could move to new cities, travel to exotic places, and try new jobs. But really, what I was nostalgic for is the opportunity to define myself.

I thought that going to college meant I could reinvent myself. When I was in high school, I narrowed my choices to four colleges: a tiny, liberal arts college in Maine; a large university in Boston; a small-ish school in Tennessee; and a medium-sized school in Texas. I think that I saw four new visions of me: a sporty, outdoorsy liberal; an outgoing city woman; a preppy Southerner; or ... I'm not sure what I imagined at the last one. But that's the school that offered me a full scholarship, and that's where I went.

I realize now that college didn't define me; I defined myself. Maybe if I'd gone to school in Maine I would have a different accent or have a different job, but I would be the same essential -R- that I am today. And I really don't want to go back to being 18 and having the old issues about confidence and fears about What Am I Supposed To Be Doing With My Life. (Not that I don't still occasionally have those fears, as this whole entry is pretty much just a reflection of last week's minor 1/3 Life Crisis.)

So I'm feeling better now about being old and having already made a lot of the major choices in my life. And I realize that if I did want to move across the country, I really could. H and I aren't being forced to stay here. We live in Minnesota because we like it. And if I want to have a new career, I can. I could go back to school or apply for new things, if I wanted to, but I don't. (Although my current job is taking up a ton of time lately, which is why I have not been blogging much.)

There's another part of me that always thinks my life would be better if it were more like [insert name of other person here]'s life. I am always comparing my situation to others' and deciding that the other person has it better. So I got to hang out with my friend in Maine, and then I thought that I should move to Maine because he and his family love Maine, and he has a great job, and he probably has more friends than I do. And I see people hanging out at the beach, and I think they seem so much happier than I am, so I should move to New Hampshire, and then I could be as happy as them. Why do I do this? I don't know what people's lives are really like. And moving would not necessarily make me happier. Plus I'm not even unhappy now! But I can't stop comparing, and it is kind of a sickness. Ugh.

I think I am over my nostalgia now and am remembering how happy that I am day to day. I really wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's right now. Well, maybe Melinda Gates. But only if H could be Bill Gates. And I could still be 28. And H could still be 29.

15 comments:

abbersnail said...

Oof, lady, I know this feeling. I have recreated my life three times, not including the Most Gigantic Breakup Ever, and there's something refreshing about it. But then I look at pictures of people who stuck with a decision they made a long time ago, and they've gotten the stability in their lives that I am yearning for. Basically, I think the grass is always greener on the other side. But also? I think that sometimes you look around and realize how much you prefer your side.

Marmite Breath said...

If you start over and move somewhere else, you still have to come home for Thanksgiving, and as long as I live in Omaha, that's cool.

PS) Are you coming home for Thanksgiving?

don't call me MA'AM said...

But then H would LOOK like Bill Gates, and not the super-stud H that he is. Bill Gates is kind of froggy looking. ;-)

I've been in a similar place, too. With my next big birthday creeping up in a year and a half, I'm even more scared. However, I think I'm learning more and more to just be comfortable in my own skin. Maybe that's the advantage of growing older. I don't know.

I hope you come to Omaha for Thanksgiving... you, marmite, and I can have a party. And we won't care how old anyone is. :-)

3carnations said...

You feel better about "being old"? Yikes, you're not old!

Lawyerish said...

OMG, we are the same person. I am terrible about comparing my life to other people's. And I don't know why, since I'm quite content and I think I have a pretty great life. It's the weirdest thing, yet the urge is unstoppable.

Also, I have been seeing the little NYU freshman hovering around the dorm that I walk by a lot, and something about it makes me unutterably sad, in the way that watching "Felicity" makes me sad, and it all ties into what you said about getting to reinvent yourself, and also about those "if I could do it all again, it would be different" thoughts.

But then I realize that college was fun and all, but it wasn't the time of my life. The time of my life is now.

One Smart Cookie said...

I hear you... it's hard to stop "What if-ing." College wasn't all that fantastic (I wonder if I went to the same large university in Boston that you rejected??) for me, but when I see those college freshman heading in, or hear about about the great experiences that other people had, I get a little jealous and wish I could start over. But really, the life I have now is pretty darn super.

P.S. You were in Boston? Did you do anything fun?

lizgwiz said...

I used to have nostalgic feelings like that whenever I saw a college campus. Nowadays college campuses just make me confused--when did they start letting 12-year-olds in? Those kids can't be old enough for college, can they? And look how they're dressed. Why, back in MY day...and then I realize I am old and crotchety, but you know what? I can drink legally. Suck on that, coeds!

Sarah said...

I too am a total victim of the "grass is always greener" syndrome. Luckily, I'm also self aware enough (and it sounds like you are too) to know that I'm so lucky with all I already have.

Operation Pink Herring said...

I can't seem to stop comparing myself to others, either. I'm perfectly happy with my life and my choices, but that doesn't stop me from playing the What If game.

L Sass said...

I think everyone feels this way. I'm applying to the Carlson school as one of my MBA options. I feel 50% thrilled that this could potentially spur us to move back to MN and settle down and 50% terrified that making that decision would mean The End Of My Life. How do you choose?

shannon said...

oh the dreaded game of "what if" that we all play with ourselves from time to time.

take a look at your current life. is there anything big you would change? if so, can you see what you need to do to change it? if not, smile to yourself and know that you are living the life you are supposed to be.

Noelle said...

If I went back to college now, I'm sure I would have 1/2 of the fun and experience 2X the learning. And oh yes, do I ever compare myself to other people. The thing is, these things feel like such enormous changes, but to an outsider's perspective, you're pretty much the same as you ever were, just happier.

stefanie said...

I do that, too, but somewhere in my brain I seem to have this, "well, next time, I'll do it this way" mindset. What is that about? Do I think I have more than one life to live? Do I think I'm actually going to remember my current life if I do?? This isn't deep, by the way; it's absurdity. I think I'm just too lazy or cautious to pick a different plan.

JayAre said...

I have a weird take on this... I went away to college right out of high school, stayed two and half years, and dropped out. I LOVED college - living in the dorms, meeting the people, everything except the classes. ;-) Which may or may not have contributed to me dropping out.

Now, at 29, I'm back in college (at a medium-sized Texas school!) and I'm all about the classes and the learning and whatnot. But when I talk to my friends at school, I occasionally catch myself saying, "Yeah, when I was in collge I did that, too..." Then I have to correct myself when I look at their confused faces and realize DUH! I'm in college NOW! I get nostalgic watching students hang out around their dorm buildings and talk about all their free time, but then I think about how cool it is that I get to come home to Mark and all our furry children.

So I guess the point of this whole long comment is to say that I understand. Because on the one hand, I sort of AM inventing myself now, as far as careers go, but on the other hand I'm totally settled down. So there you have it. Ta da.

-R- said...

Can I tell you guys how cool it is that you get what I am talking (writing) about? Very cool. I feel like less of a weirdo now.

Also, I will be in Omaha for Thanksgiving!