Learning from nostalgia


A year ago last week, I graduated from Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.

It’s a fact I’ve been unable to avoid ever since the calendar turned to May. Throughout the month, my phone has lit up repeatedly with notifications of old photos from my graduation ceremony and celebrations being posted by friends in commemoration of the anniversary. I’ve seen younger friends, classmates and relatives celebrate the completion of their own degrees.

And it has been ... weird.

For most people my age, this is no new phenomenon. As we approach any holiday or anniversary, our lives become swarmed with #ThrowbackThursdays, as we see our younger selves through the filtered lens of Instagram.

Naturally, this induces nostalgia. Lately, conversations with friends from any time in my life have a tendency to bend toward recollections of our earlier days, when things were still simple and carefree.

Oh, yes, to be 20 years old, staying up until the wee hours of the morning doing nothing in particular, secure in the freedom to sleep until noon and still have plenty of time to get to our first class at 1 p.m.. If only we could go back to that time, things would be so much better. My stress would melt away and everything would be as it should.

This, of course, is an entirely fictional depiction of our pasts. While the time away at college can be and often is a time to explore, indulge and discover, it is also wracked with the stress of finding and defining oneself. As crucial as it is, self-discovery can often be a rocky process, and it’s easy to stumble along the way.

I would propose that nearly all who have gone away to school, and many that have gone the perhaps more intelligent and mature route and commuted to school, often saving thousands in the process, can relate to that stress. By the end of schooling, most have had their fill of late nights in the library and the chaos that accompanies everyday life. Many long for the routine, structure and true independence that the “real world” provides.

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