How do you say goodbye to a place?
It’s sort of a weird concept, right? With time, I’ve become (a little bit) more comfortable saying goodbye to people. I’m better at keeping in touch over long distances. While I can’t quite grasp the concept of people coming and going from my life, I am focusing on the joy of seeing friends and family, rather than the sadness of being apart.
Between college and home, I’ve had to maintain a great deal of relationships over distances. So, I’m more used to that.
Something that still needs work, is saying goodbye to places.
I am lucky enough to have grown up in the same town, since about age two. My neighbors have stayed the same, and I still live within a few miles of my lifelong friends. I have stability there. I keep returning to the same town when I’m not at school, so I know that I can always come home again.
Two years ago, I had to say goodbye to a place for the first time. After the most amazing semester of my life, I had to leave Granada, Spain. It was heart-wrenching. My friends and I still regularly talk about how amazing that experience was, and dream of our return to the city.
This weekend, I had to leave another place that is very close to my heart: Champaign, Illinois.
In the middle of a whole bunch of corn fields, Champaign is a gem. A needle in a haystack… or, cornstalk. It’s filled to the brim with amazingly, absurdly smart people. Great art, music and entertainment. Adorable cafes and beautiful theaters.
I fell in love with Champaign way back in middle school. (Apologies to those that have heard this story many times.) I was on campus in mid-October, 2004. The leaves were changing, so campus was absolutely gorgeous. The campus was so alive. Well, it was alive after about noon when everyone woke up. My dad went to school at UIUC, so he showed me around campus, pointing out where he lived, where he had classes and how campus has changed.
Needless to say, I was sold.
For the rest of middle school and high school, Illinois was my vision of “college”. I visited, and applied to, other universities. In the back of my mind, though, I knew that I had to go to Illinois.
Even the FONT on the logo is beautiful, impressive and just… so Illinois.
Now, after the fastest years of my life, I am an alumna of the university. It is an absolutely horrid, sad, terrifying fact that I still haven’t accepted.
This summer, I’ve been living in total denial. I still had some pots, pans and things in my college apartment, so I always knew that I’d be back. No closure was happening, that’s for sure. But, last weekend, I went back to that apartment for the last time.
All of my roommates were back for what inevitably turned into an amazingly fun, yet super nostalgic and sad, weekend.
We jammed to ’90s music, and when “Champagne Supernova” came on, I was definitely near tears. I probably wasn’t the only one. Well… I may have been the only one. Whatever. Emotions, people.
So, we spent that last night having the time of our lives. Pretending we were still in college, pretending that we never had to leave.
On Sunday, when my room was totally empty, I just stood there, looking at it. I had no idea how to leave – how to get closure, accept the fact that I’d never live in Champaign again. My college friends would never again live within walking distance. I can’t go out on weeknights, living the wonderful “no morning class” lifestyle. Won’t be on the quad daily, soaking in the (rare) sun and people watching. No more learning from the amazing faculty, no more random gen ed classes (I still use my Severe and Hazardous Weather knowledge daily). No more sorority recruitment (Might not be very sad about this one, actually.)
No more college? Huh?
It definitely still hasn’t hit me.
I keep thinking of that John Mayer song, “Stop This Train”.
“See once in a while when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
’til you cry when you’re driving away in the dark.”
SO accurate. Last weekend, we were all in the apartment. It felt like it should, they were all still around and I was safe and sound.
I just haven’t driven away, yet. I mean… I drove away in the literal sense. But, mentally and emotionally, I’m pretty much at sophomore year.
So, we’ll see if it ever hits me. It probably won’t.
Love you, Champaign. Stay wonderful.