College Flashback

On a lovely June afternoon during a quick trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, I was meandering along on a self-guided walking tour I’d found online. It led through the historic downtown and eventually onto the campus of Northern Arizona University.

It’s been a long time since I went away to college or have spent any time on a college campus for that matter—I’d forgotten how good it feels. I strolled down the main  pedestrian-only thoroughfare checking out the historic buildings, new ones under construction, and the Student Union, finally ending up at the campus bookstore.

I’ve always particularly loved college bookstores. There’s something about the atmosphere inside—the racks of university-logo clothing, shelves of school supplies, piles of cuddly mascot teddy bears and of course the expansive textbook section.

…the me of long ago remains inside the me of today.

But as I browsed, I suddenly recognized the song playing in the background: Africa by Toto. In an instant, I was transported back to my own freshman year at Brigham Young University, when that song was released. Memories and feelings of that long-ago time flooded back to the surface and I was 18 once again, just embarking on my big adventure.

Isn’t it amazing how a sight, a smell, a sound can convey you to another place and time? Simply hearing that music made me feel like I was standing in the BYU bookstore trying to figure out what I was going to need for the coming semester. I remembered the excitement I felt thinking about what my classes would be like and wondering what new things I would learn. I can even recall the novelty of feeling the autumn change of season—novel for a native Los Angeleno, that is—imagining ahead to what a winter with actual snow would be like.

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to fathom that it has been over 30 years since that time. A lot has happened as I’ve traveled through life—many things completely unforeseen by the me of 1981. At this point in my journey—having passed my half-century mark—I occasionally long for that simpler time when I still had all my years ahead of me; for the feelings of independence as I embarked on what was then still my future. All the accreted complications and baggage of life had not yet weighed me down or caused me strife or confusion or occasionally even great satisfaction.

But it sure felt good to realize as I stood smiling in the NAU bookstore, listening to those familiar strains of music from my past, that the me of long ago remains inside the me of today. The core of who I am is just as young and excited and eager for life as ever. And it’s not too late for me to recapture some of those feelings and reincorporate them into my life today.

After all, you’re as young as you feel.

© 2014 Douglas P. Kendrick, all rights reserved.

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