This past weekend, I went back to my university, Simon Fraser, to walk around the campus. I hadn’t been there since 2008 when I returned for my convocation ceremony. I’m in Vancouver for two weeks thanks to a work trip, so I used some of my free time to go up to SFU. I’m not sure if I did this in hopes of reigniting some kind of nostalgia or bringing back a wave of memories, but I wasn’t expecting the experience that I had: I didn’t feel anything.
Sure, certain buildings and spots around campus reminded me of things my friends and I had done or classes I had taken, but I felt completely removed from those memories. It’s not so much that they didn’t feel like they never happened, it just felt like they were gone. They’re not part of my life anymore. SFU is no longer part of who I am. That’s a strange thing to think about a place that, without question, helped shape the person I have become. But what hit me as I walked around was that I no longer belong there. It’s not my place.
That’s a weird feeling to have about somewhere that played such an integral role for 4+ years of the most formative period of my life. When I was last at SFU in 2008, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia and an almost unbearable longing to go back and experience it all again. To be honest, I half expected to feel that way this time. I thought walking past old classrooms, residence and The Peak office where I spent so much time would make it all come rushing back. But that didn’t happen.
Seeing homemade posters of candidates running for student government made me smile at the thought of the futility of it all. The cloud of fog passing over campus made me wonder how we ever endured months of total dreariness. The new buildings and renovations of older ones made me realize every university student probably never gets to see the full benefits of all the tuition they paid. Everything there felt familiar, but no part of it felt like home.
And it was strange for me to realize that it’s not my home anymore. SFU belongs to other people now. As it has since I finished my classes in 2007. Universities have ever-changing ownership, at least in the way students and teachers help shape and define the post-secondary experience. As much as I want to feel like I still belong at SFU and believe that I still mean something to that school; I don’t.
This is a hard thing to realize for anyone who had the standard university or college experience. And I think a lot of people probably can’t ever really accept it. We’re constantly told university is supposed to be the best years of our lives and all that. But I don’t think anyone should ever think in such definitive terms. I’m glad for what happened to me when I went back. I’m glad I didn’t feel like I belonged. I’m glad I didn’t ache to go back. The last thing I would want to do is live my life clinging desperately to four years as the only part of it worth remembering, cherishing or wanting to experience again.
There should be more to life than nostalgia.