I am currently on a train, bound for Kingston, which was my home for the four years of my undergraduate degree. Since September, I have been visiting often to see my boyfriend and several close friends who are current Queen’s students, having chosen to stay on for a fifth year.
I find that returning to visit so often is bittersweet. While I am always excited to see everyone, I often feel, having graduated this past spring, that I “left the party early,” so to speak. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are still dominated by all things Queen’s and Kingston, which is just a constant reminder that I’m not there anymore, but the fun continues. It already feels like it’s been forever since I lived there.
Visiting for 48 hours every other weekend makes me feel like an outsider. Even though I haven’t missed the actual ‘party’ (which tends to happen on weekends), I’m missing all the other parts in between. Simple things like seeing friends around campus, taking coffee breaks from the library, going to the gym with a friend, and discussing every minute detail of my day with my boyfriend and best friend re no longer a part of my daily routine. Now, most of my friends are at least a 20-minute subway ride or drive away, as opposed to a 30-second walk, and everyone is so busy with work that ‘hanging out’ is infrequent.
The transition from living surrounded by close friends my age to living at home with my parents has been significant (not that I dislike living at home, it’s actually a great situation, but its just very different). I’ve never thought of myself as an extrovert, but it became evident over the Christmas holidays when I was in first year that I had really taken to residence life, and had begun to significantly rely on the presence of my floormates. I distinctly remember feeling lonely while on vacation in Curacao with my parents and brother. I’d really never felt this way before, and it took me a while to figure out why I was so sad… on vacation.
On the flipside, many of my friends who have stayed for a fifth year have told me that it’s just not the same, almost as if they stayed at the party too long. Queen’s is a small university, where you see people you know almost every time you walk through campus, so it’s very noticeable to my friends that a significant chunk of their social circle has left.
Having said this, I realize that staying at university forever, or until I deemed the ‘party’ finished, just for the sake of enjoying university life would be entirely unproductive. Those who have chosen to stay are doing so for academic purposes, and have made the right decision for themselves and their futures. I think I’m just having trouble coming to grips with what it’s like to be an adult, and working a full-time job. I’m lamenting the loss of my flexible schedule, where the hours outside of my 15-hours of class a week were mine to distribute as I saw fit. If I wanted to sleep all day and study all night, I could. If I wanted to spend my entire Monday afternoon figuring out how to brine and stuff a chicken, I could. And I did.
In the end, the grass is always greener on the other side.