Going back is the weirdest thing. Back to the place where things began to begin.
And that place is Canterbury. My University town, where the streets are cobbled and the buildings are old in places, the bricks still intact but groaning a little with age. If you listen closely enough then you can hear them muttering under their concrete breathe, that their bones ache and that they’ve seen too many students making drunken fools of themselves.
It was raining on the motorway as we meandered our way down to Canterbury last Saturday. It was a shame because Canterbury is far superior in the sunshine. Well, what place isn’t, to be honest. Sunlight does something profound to the soul and to brickwork, and to leaves on trees and to human faces. But that Saturday there was no sign of it. The sky was a blanket of greyness. A poor substitute for azure.
We pulled up outside my old campus and spent the initial part of our trip, treading my old stamping ground. I took Oli to all three of the places that I’d lived in during my studies, including my halls of residence, my tiny second year house and the three storey, pre-drink epicentre that I’d dwelled in during third year. A different house, a different room for each year.
The truth is that I don’t miss University like I once thought I would. I really used to believe that life after University was going to be a tough one and I suppose to some extent it has been, regarding employment and retreating back to my family home, regressing to parental dependence. These things aren’t easy, espeically when you’re expectations are sky-high. But on the whole I was wrong, I actually prefer, no LOVE, my life after University.
But there’s something about taking a wander down memory lane that makes you think in the same way you used to think for just a second, and feel how you once felt many moons ago. Something that rewinds you a little, to the person that you were before you were the you that you are now. (Any one still with me?)
Tracing the footsteps of my former self – a different version of myself that had yet to be updated with the software of a future, that is now my present – led to intermittent flourishes of nostalgia.
When I finally left University, almost four years ago now, I was looking for something, or rather someone, that simply was not there to be found. He wasn’t in any of my lectures, or the cafeteria, he wasn’t at my church, or under my kitchen table, or down my road, or in ASDA late at night buying a chocolate Yazoo, he wasn’t at the Student Union or the Christian Union for that matter, or in Baa Bars dancing to ‘Mr Brightside’, or in any of the societies that I joined. He just simply was not there. Not in the vicinity.
Instead he was miles away, all the way up in Scotland in fact.
If only my earlier, confused-and-desperate-to-meet-him, self, had known that at the time. Oh the time, and all the heartbreak she would have saved herself.
There I was on that Saturday, years later, following the imprint of my old footsteps, hand in hand with the one I was so eager to find back then. Walking around my old haunts, with someone very special to me, when I used to walk the same way, alone, dreaming about the day he’d come into my life.
The old me is gone now, she is but a wisp, a memory. She is shed, dead skin (as gross as that sounds), she is a faint impression contributing to the rise and fall of Canterbury’s cobbles worn by many a students stamps. She has been rewritten, taped over, updated and she is so incredibly happy sometimes that she feels that she might spontaneously combust with joy, her delight falling, and floating about her like a rainbow of confetti on a wedding day. Because the person she was looking for, waiting for, longing for, is here. And here to stay.
I like to think that on Saturday she was peering out of her window surveying College Road before her – or perhaps Regency Place, or even the lawn that rolls itself out in front of Temple Halls like a thick carpet, rough and spiky underfoot – only to catch a glimpse of her future, there, right in front of her. Catching a glimpse of her older, more weathered hand, intertwined with the kindest, most loving, supportive hand she’d ever hold. All other hand holding paling into insignificance before her very eyes.
I would like to have been comforted which such knowledge when I was her, when I was alert like a lighthouse keeper, desperate not to miss the boat that I hoped was coming.
Well it came. And let me tell you, this post Univserity adventure is better than I ever dreamed. The good ship Love is the best voyage I’ve ever been on. I never want this boat to dock.