Then again, it feels like almost 50 years have passed in my life since that moment in time when I was a bright eyed, young, exuberant, hopeful, naive, and excited college student.
I thought I knew it all then.
And, I have pretty much proved that 21-year old girl wrong, despite all my best efforts. There are so many twists and turns I could not have predicted. Death, divorce, layoffs, love, loss, and second chances.
Today I rented a car, hopped on the Mass Pike and ventured out to Northampton to reunite with my fellow classmates.
Upon first entering the Grecourt Gates I felt a strange sense of change.
Like a smell in the air. It was the same, but different.
I parked my car across campus at the new parking garage (we didn’t have a parking garage when I was there ~ we also didn’t have cell phones, dvds, navigation systems, flat screen TV, or Wi-Fi for that matter ).
I walked my old familiar path through campus. From the gym, past the pond, up the hill, across Elm Street and ended at Lamont House. Class headquarters.
With excitement in my step I walked up to the registration table to check-in. The dear student behind the desk seemed a little flustered and couldn’t find my name on the list. Doesn’t matter I smiled at her. I registered on the last day, I’m sure it’s on there.
A class agent jumped in to help and promptly announced that I must not be on the list, I registered too late. She grabbed a pen and a name tag and handed them to me: “Here. Fill out your own name tag.”
Just as the student reached over to hand me my goodie bag, the class agent jumped in and shrieked “She doesn’t get a bag. She’s not on the list. We only have 85, I can’t give you one.”
“It’s okay.” I smiled back. “Really, I registered online on the last day, so I probably just didn’t make the list.”
Without bag or goodies in hand I left the hall to head out to my old house in search of my old room. As I approached the quaint little Victorian I was greeted with a locked door. Locked out. Okay, so no photos of the old room. Moving on.
I walked to the new student center (built post circa 1996) to grab my boxed lunch and check out the campus center. As soon as it was my turn, after waiting in line, the staff announced they were all out of vegetarian lunches.
“Darn.” I thought. I had specifically registered for a vegetarian meal so I could stay on my cleanse (the. final. week. of. this. detox.)
No problem, I told myself. I grabbed the regular lunch and pulled out the apple and carrots. This will do.
On with the day.
And, on to other surprises:
Class meeting. Moved to dinner.
Wellness sessions. Moved to a different building.
I went back and checked my old house again. Still locked.
It had been three hours. And here I stood, in the middle of campus. No lunch. No visit to the old room. No class meeting. No goodie bag.
I began to ponder the situation. Maybe this was a sign, to leave. I had another hour before the next event (which for all I know was to be canceled or moved or displaced or re-purposed)
I stood on the step of the empty building and a sign caught my eye.
Chapin Botanical Garden.
I didn’t know there was another botanical garden on campus…
So, just before I gave up and was about to leave, I found the most beautiful, sweet and amazing spot on campus. A fountain, a waterfall, a sea of tulips, a meditation circle, a rose trellis and a pathway with benches.
I snapped a bunch of photos and sat on a bench soaking in the beauty of this very moment.
And, it was right then, that I found it.
I expected to enter campus and reunite with friends, I expected to see familiar faces and classmates, I expected to tour my old room, my old house, my old stomping grounds.
Instead I found myself reuniting with another woman.
The girl inside me.
On a bench, in a sea of tulips and boxwood shrubs, I sat with the girl who at one time called this campus home.
The girl who picked herself up by her bootstraps and moved from the west coast to the east coast to go to college, the one who was not phased and completely unfettered by thought of launching into the real world and knew she was going to change it.
It’s a thing of hope sitting on a college campus. The air smells of opportunity and dreams. And it was there on that bench that I had my reunion.
So what if I didn’t get a goodie bag, or room tour, or vegetarian lunch.
I got a much greater gift.
A reunion with what matters most, the core of it all, and the reason I first entered the Grecourt Gates. To live a life of purpose and passion.
And it was in thinking of this girl, that I reconnected with my heart and remembered: opportunity awaits.