The holidays are weird. They are a time where a lot of us get reflective over ourselves and pay close attention to those things we wish we could change (I bet those of you who know me are like, Taylor, you’re always reflective. I know, the holidays are my reflection period, with all of the calories). My friends and I haven’t been strangers to the reflection bug and the desire to make sense of what we’d like to change in the new year because let’s face it, 2017 was pretty awful.
This year I fell in love. I fell out of love with long-held ideas and desires. I grew my hair out. I lost my cat for a few days, and she came back. Most importantly, I spent a large chunk of time wondering if I could cure my longstanding dissatisfaction by moving back to Bowling Green, the town where I went to college, and “grew up” in more ways than one. The place where the best doughnuts are, and where there is still a record store in the shopping mall.
I went back to Bowling Green last weekend for the first time since I’ve graduated. I wondered several times if people could see my invisible “alumna” stamp on my forehead I wear whenever I am browsing through the twitter pages of my former colleagues, wishing I could stand in line at Burrito Bowl one more time, or send out an EAS test over the air at my beloved stomping ground of WKU’s radio station. I spent my Sunday morning sitting in the student union with two of my closest friends, who have heard their fair share of my wishful thoughts.
I spent the morning people watching everyone who walked through the crowded union. I watched those people who impatiently waited for Stake and Shake to open, I stood behind people in Starbucks while silently trying to communicate to the back of their heads to please milk their time in school for all that it’s worth. I would often stop in mid sentence to stare at people with backpacks. My own backpack has sat in the corner of my bedroom for nearly a year; my cats love the lingering scent of Anais Anais and dread from my last stressful on campus semester.
At one point while leaving campus, I found myself staring at my freshman dorm and realized I was not stressed for the first time. It was an all-too-familiar feeling; my best friend and I would be on our way to Applebee’s (RIP) for the second night in a row, and I’d feel a pang of guilt because I needed to edit a paper or concentrate harder on picking out tracks for the station’s weekly rotation. I realized then, stress is universal. I had been thinking for so long stress would evaporate as soon as I left WKU’s campus. Changing my environment was not going to fully eliminate the nagging feeling inside of me that I’m not doing enough to be my best self.
I envied those people carrying backpacks full of books, briefly missing the huge pangs of Sunday guilt. Feeling extremely unprepared for the week is a feeling we ALL know too well, regardless of what stage of life we’re in. I believed for a long time last year, that it would be better if I could just nurse Sunday night guilt with a long bath at my parents’ house, instead of taking it out on refrigerated Chic-fil-A sandwiches I’d stocked up on Saturday night.
Most importantly, returning to campus made me realize I’ve never lost the people and have never forgotten the places that made my college experiences worth blogging about. Hours of conversation and journal writing which spanned over a year, seemed to be solved after Ford simply said, “you know we’d be here for you regardless if we were sitting in Nashville or not.” Believe me, this sounds so simple, but it’s taken me much longer than you’d think, to realize places are just places. It’s the people that make them special.
Sure, there were a few moments where I caught myself reminiscing about moments belonging to a bygone era when I walked through The Square with a coffee from Spencers in hand. Fortunately or unfortunately, those moments will travel with me because they’re forever in my memory, as much as I’d like to leave them in the bygone ashtrays in the middle of the former nativity scene of The Square’s yesteryear. The passage of time is something I have always struggled with, but it’s so important to remember change is good, and progression is key to growth. I’m still struggling to remember that especially when I realize I no longer know the most popular bands in the Bowling Green music scene!
I carry the tools to create the changes I need to make for myself. Looking back is healthy but it isn’t good for me to lose myself in nostalgia. I realized as I laid in my own bed that night, how sleepy I was after spending the weekend recreating a wild typical college night. Hilligans will (hopefully) always be there for a dude in a suit to steal a slice of my pizza while I’m not looking, but I’m fully responsible for grasping I need eight full hours of sleep and some Gatorade.