Slowly but surely, little by little, I’ve started to remember the Goucher that I left behind a year ago—how to use academic language, how to languish in the dining halls for at least an hour, how to email five administrators to get one answer. Names of almost-forgotten people flicker back, roots on the trails re-rear their heads, and the Baltimore heat and humidity re-baptize me in a slick coating of sweat.
The faces that I have come to expect to see on campus – the faces of friends, of teammates, of professors – are now all different, all changed. Every once in a while, I find myself visually pinning the face of a friend to the back of a stranger’s head or almost calling out to someone on the way to class only to realize that they are no longer here.
These ghost people and ghost memories make me nostalgic for the Goucher I left behind, the Goucher of Freshman and Sophomore years and all of the characters and stories that went along with them. It also makes me nostalgic for all of the stories that I missed, all of the transformative events that have formed my friends that now sit beside me, one year and so many different, crazy, and beautiful moments later.
As the Parisian streets I’ve left have started to blur together in my mind, my voice has gradually regained its American twang, and my black and grey wardrobe from this past year has been replaced by bright colors and floral patterns. Most of the time, I find myself enjoying the comforts of the “laid backness” of the States, of the cultural acceptance of wearing running shorts in public or of the friendly greetings from strangers.
Occasionally though, memories transport me back to the boulangerie on the corner with the blue-awning, to the banks of the Seine with my feet dangling into the water, to the winding streets and curling buildings of my city, my Paris. I can see it gleaming and feel the almost visceral tug of the city on my body, making me want to hatch a pair of wings and fly back tout de suite. In these instances, all I want to do is go home, home being the city on the other side of the ocean that lulled me to sleep over the course of many months with its electric lights and human-fueled lullabies.
How do you express a whole year of whimsicality and spontaneity and self-growth? How do you depict a city where at night the water of the river would seem to reach up to you with the reflections of shimmering lights pulsating from unkempt office windows or from the cafés where people slouched in their chairs with their cigarettes flamed? Or the moments when you would emerge from the depths of the métro at the dead of night to find a new world, streetlights few and far between, sidewalks littered in nighttime remnants? Or when you would stumble over cobblestones, joyeux, happy, with the understanding that your life at that moment was expansive and limitless; when happiness didn’t flicker, but flamed?
But over the past two weeks, I’ve re-remembered my sense of home at Goucher, the sense of community while walking to class, while eating, while sitting, while laughing.
While this whole readjusting-to-being-a-student thing isn’t necessarily a piece of cake, coming back to this bucolic-bubble-in-the-woods, coming full circle, makes me realize how excited I am not only for Senior year, but for all the other years, senior or otherwise, that have yet to come. Santé!