What I did during my summer vacation

| Staff Columnist

First, I’d like to welcome all returning students back to our illustrious campus and extend a hand in much the same gesture to the newest members of our community. I say I would like to, but I really have no authority in the matter, so I suppose I won’t.

What I can (and therefore will) do, however, is give a great big hello to all of my loyal readers and a slightly smaller hello to those of you readers who found this article not so much by following me but by meandering through the jungle of Student Life. How was your summer, reader? Did you go home and see as many friends as you could in those precious few hours of the day you weren’t working? Did you stay here or attend some other university, taking classes or perhaps doing research? Was there an internship waiting for you in some strange city at the beginning of last May?

Regardless of what you did, what you are doing now is the same as what we all are doing now: enjoying the scant time we all have here in St. Louis before we go back to a new school year. But maybe this is a bittersweet time for you. Are you filled with reflections about the past three or four months? Is your mind abuzz with thoughts of what had changed back home? Mine is.

I was still friends with the people I’d been friends with in high school. We still went to the same ice cream parlors and bowling alleys and movie theaters, swam in the same pools, hung out in the same parking lots. We were still close, almost as close as we’d been before college.  But something had changed irreversibly.

The fact of the matter is that a year away changed me in ways that I still don’t quite understand. I have more perspective now; the problems that seemed so insurmountable during high school now make me scoff; the petty concerns of me and my peers have revealed themselves to be nothing more than adolescent whining. I have more experience now; people are more comprehensible to me, and I am more open to new exploration.

The topic of conversation at my home-away-from-home (I spend most of my time here­­—so much, in fact, that I find it difficult to imagine being anywhere else for extended periods of time) strayed from whatever we talked about before college-mania took us over during senior year to stories from college: what we or our friends did, things we saw or heard, the strange people one is bound to meet at an institute of higher learning. True, the stories petered out as time went by, but they were always there.

I spent more and more of my time alone as the summer progressed, wishing fervently for time to speed up until my return here and my reunion with my college friends. While final goodbyes last year were emotional ordeals—sometimes lasting hours—a simple “Have a nice semester” seemed like overkill this year.

Did these changes need to happen? Are they a necessary consequence of leaving the nest, taking on some independence and having life encounters that are totally different from those of the peers with whom I grew up? Am I, Heaven forbid, maturing?

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.