My old university will always be home to me; however unlike past visits where I felt as if I was returning home, this time I left with a different feeling. This feeling can only be described as touring your childhood home where you no longer live, and feelings of nostalgia and sadness for days that once were follow you everywhere.
Every step I took on this campus was familiar. I knew exactly how long it would take to walk from the Pit to the Old Well, and the fastest route to get to Student Health. Memories of people watching in the quad, lunch dates with teammates, and even a few familiar teachers that most likely have no clue who you are anymore.
While I people watched this time, the feeling was different. It was as if myself and all my memories were just ghosts, as people were now living their own lives and making new memories. It was a feeling of returning to a childhood home, now inhabited by strangers as you notice all the changes that they have made. With every new turn on campus, a new memory would be brought back. Visiting my freshman dorm where more time was spent laughing than sleeping, the old weight room where probably just as many tears were shed as sweat. I couldn't help but feel jealous that these people still have time to write chapter of their book, and mine and all of my friends books were already complete.
I try to go back and visit a few times a year, so maybe I've always felt this way and it's now just hitting me my last friends' still remaining will also be graduating in May, but I think the hopeful thing is I can look back and have no regrets. Thinking about the things I regretted at the time, like not getting enough sleep before weights or not having the best luck dating, are things now have turned into all of my friends' favorite memories and things we can laugh at.
The first time I visited Carolina after I graduated it felt like I still belonged, and as if my new "home" was just a place I was visiting. I looked around and my family was still there, and everything was how I left it. The next few times the changes were evident, but I still felt at home. At my first alumni even this past weekend, I felt old, out of date, and like I was a true visitor, intruding on these students in a place that I no longer belonged.
Carolina will always be home, the people I met there will always be family, but things are different. Who would have thought that tripping over bricks or dodging scooters in the crosswalk would be things I would miss, but it's become evident that the beautiful campus isn't what made my experience what it was, rather all the people I made my memories with. It serves as a good reminder that going through the motions is never the answer, and although one chapter is over, another one is always beginning.