Once upon a time when I was sixteen and dreamy, I had this humble fantasy that college was doing my required reading on a Saturday afternoon at a campus-side cafe looking out to a view of rain falling on umbrellas and sidewalks. Maybe I just watched An Education one too many times and imagined myself as Jenny (sans cigarettes), but something about that image of sitting in a coffee shop and reading Camus felt like just the right combination of cliche and accuracy of what I thought studying in college was supposed to look like.
Two weeks ago, I actually was sitting at the I-House Cafe on Saturday afternoon working on an outline to my classics paper, and it occurred to me that it's little things like this where I try and create this kind of nostalgic memory out of obligation. I wonder: do I feel obligation to myself or to society? Does my desire to sip my pretentious hazelnut lattes at a college town coffee shop stem from watching similar scenes in all my favorite movies, or is it because I want to preserve some picturesque idea of how I remember my college experience years and years in the future?
Back in high school I had friends who talked about prom in the years and months leading up to it as if it really would be this promised night full of magic and memories, from the public spectacle "WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME?" poster prom-posals to finding the dress hidden among endless racks at the department stores. And then when second semester senior year finally did come around and I chose not to go, I remember being pestered about how I was missing out on what was supposed to be the best night of my high school life. Sometimes I find myself looking back and wondering if I really did miss my chance for something special that night, but another part of me is mad that I'm expected to feel like I missed a rite of passage or something at all. I'll set my own damn standards for the collection of memories I'm supposed to have, thank you very much.
And maybe that's the problem: I'm all too aware of the memories I'm trying to make as I go on my great adventures and I wish I was better at relaxing and having fun. I can't remember what the context of the conversation was, but one of my friends told me last May: "I want to see you go crazy." It was one of those things that I couldn't get out of my head after I heard it, because I didn't remember a time in my life when I’ve ever let go: not when I was six at recess, playing the part of the calm and graceful queen in a fairytale reenactments because the princesses always seemed too reckless and feisty for me; and not when I was sixteen in room 323 at a summer camp in Washington wine country, when I could have at least pretended to be someone I wasn’t with a group of strangers I’d never see again in our completely sober 3AM games of truth or dare.
As I'm wrapping up my first semester of college, I've come to crave spontaneity but also the mundaneness of my new life. I secretly love saying yes to a knock on my door for an invitation to go get sushi when I should be studying, just as I love walking down the wrong street on my way to the supermarket and walking out with a cup of Bartlett pear gelato. I want more opportunities to be able to sit around and talk about nothing of importance with people I may or may not see around campus after the semester's over, because philosophical discussions about reality under the stars like those moments in movies are overrated anyways: talk to me instead about what classes I'm taking over pizza in the afternoon and I promise I'll love those moments all the same.