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HOW TO SURVIVE A VISIT TO YOUR COLLEGE TOWN

April 24, 2012

Be nervous about how you’ll react; you haven’t been back in a while. Make a strategic playlist for the ride up. Include lots of new folk songs that you’re feeling cool about just starting to get into. DON’T include the songs that were popular your senior year of college, the ones that you listened to on repeat with your college boyfriend while cuddling naked, or anything from Guster’s “Lost and Gone Forever” album.

Stop at a number of rest stops to check your phone. Keep in constant text contact with your current roommate and people from the city where you now reside. Send texts that say things like “almost there, unless I die first haha.” Know what’s happening at home that night and feel glad that you’re sad you’ll miss it.

Focus on the food. Remember the sandwich place where you went every Friday after class? You would get a huge, overflowing sandwich, bring it back to your apartment, and eat it in bed before getting ready to go out. Plan to go there every day of your trip. Know which variations of sandwich you want to hit. Spend some time thinking about whether they will have made any changes to their tuna salad. How could they have, though? Decide it will be fine.

When you get there, have a beer. Hang out on a porch with people your age or older who have stayed in town and made real, adult lives for themselves. Talk about your successes, such as they are. Reminisce but in a somewhat detached way – talk about old events and acknowledge that everyone is over them. Ask half-heartedly about people who you only vaguely care about anymore.

Go out and get wasted. Revel in wearing jeans and a green t-shirt with a bear’s face on it to the bars. Small town life! End the night by getting a hot dog from the vendor on the street just like you always used to, but eat it more carefully this time and don’t wake up with ketchup spilled on your jeans.

On the walk back to the apartment where you’re staying, pass the apartment where you spent many nights as a 22-year-old in love. Expect to be flooded by emotion and feel only slightly wistful. When you get to your friend’s apartment, celebrate by eating jellybeans leftover from an Easter basket and passing out.

Wake up with a massive hangover. Attempt a group brunch and realize that you’re now unable to function after drinking so much. Take your friend’s keys and spend the rest of the day napping in her bed.

Stay one more day, and use it to visit your favorite professor. Look around the campus and objectively appreciate how beautiful it is, but be glad that you don’t live there anymore. Feel silly asking for directions to the professor’s office, as if you’re late for an appointment with a new doctor. Know that everyone who sees you assumes you’re just another student, but feel really aware that you’re not.

Have an amazing talk with the professor and be floored by her beautifully articulated advice. Afterwards, open a new note in your phone and write down her words so that you’ll never forget them: “There are moments when we feel the Universe pull us in a new direction, towards new experiences; I think we ignore those moments at our peril.”

Drive home right afterwards.

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