Downgrade

Karen and I decided long ago that we always want to live in a college town. There’s a different sort of electricity in college towns…the kind of energy that comes with the pursuit of knowledge and inquiring minds. There’s a willingness to explore, an opportunity to be heard. There’s a plethora of fascinating people from a wide variety of backgrounds, all come together in one city to chase after their futures.

Also, there’s more coffee shops in college towns. But that’s not the primary contributing factor. Really. I promise.

Among the various private institutions located in and around the area in which we currently live, there’s also a community college. Karen is an adjunct faculty member there, teaching at various campuses. She also teaches dual enrollment…high school students that are taking college courses early. I lament sometimes that she has the perfect job. I also have several friends that are students at the community college. I saw one of them “check in” at one of the campuses on Foursquare today, and something about it brought back all sorts of memories.

The school at which I completed my undergrad also had community college and technical college ┬ádivisions. As it was a huge commuter campus, almost all of us drove and competed for parking spaces. There was such a great mix of students in any given building at any given time: students training to be electricians sharing the hallways with theatre and visual art students. Architecture students and engineering students mingling with English majors. I loved it. Boundaries were broken down, and everyone accepted everyone for who they were. We were all there exploring. Not just our academic areas of inquiry, but we were exploring life, too. I learned about cars and communication theory, girls and technical theatre, literature and personal finances…all in the same four years. I went through my share of garbage, and I certainly made my share of mistakes…and I don’t just mean academic ones. But, as someone once said, most of the lessons you learn in college you don’t learn in the classroom. I learned time management the hard way. I became exposed to coffee. I became exposed to life, and I loved the adventure.

Life is still an adventure, don’t get me wrong. I just found myself missing those undergrad days today. Grad school was great, but not the same. It’s more…professional. You know, like we’re all supposed to be now that we’ve finished college. Professional. Sanitized. Confined to a 9-to-5. Chasing a dream doesn’t look the same now. There are responsibilities other than learning great new things. We’ve traded inquiring minds for the lives of responsible adults.

In order to have money.

I suppose that was part of what we after all along. Now that we’ve gotten there, I’m not convinced that it’s such a great destination, after all, because on days like today, I really, really wish I could experience the journey again.

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