Monday, June 30, 2014

Sentimental Dreaming: Leaving Sarah Lawrence, The City, and My College Life Behind

Last night I dreamt of leaving Sarah Lawrence all over again. The beginning of the dream was fuzzy and entirely fictional, meaning I did not know any of the characters in real life. As the vision progressed, I saw familiar faces, friends from the Class of 2014 who I had become close with in the past three years. When I left Sarah Lawrence nearly a month ago, I failed to shed any tears. Instead, I was elated to finally leave New York and return to my home for a much-needed long holiday. For the past two years, I had spent each summer taking a summer course and when I did return to Indonesia, I would spend a considerable amount of time travelling. The anticipation to exit what was once perceived as “The Life”overshadowed the miserable process of saying good bye.
Last day on the grounds

During the minutes before the last day of econometrics, a friend from a different year asked if I was finding it troublesome to leave. Preventing myself from grinning I opted for a moderate answer, “No, it hasn’t been that hard. I guess, the only thing that bothers me is the possibility that I will never see most of the people here again.” As strange as it was, I had a sneaky feeling that I would never see him or many of our Econometrics classmates after the end of class.

To be utterly honest, staying would have been much harder than leavening, and yet I found myself dreaming such dreams. Since I moved temporarily to Singapore I can’t help but compare every little thing about the mobile lifestyle of this metropolis to New York. Even though I find myself saying more good things about the former than the latter, I sense some nostalgia in my tone of voice. Of course it doesn’t help that the soundtrack for one of Broadway’s newest musicals, If/Then starring Idina Menzel, is on loop on my iPhone.

A story of Beth/Liz, the same woman who made different choices that lead to massively variant life changes, If/Then has definitely captured this twentysomething’s imagination, especially as I step into cross roads more frequently than ever before. Three years ago I planned on making my own Map of New York, much like Beth, a city planner, did in the musical. Instead of becoming a city planner, I chose to peruse the city and leave subtle marks for my own personal amusement.

As the end slowly neared and I counted down the days I could spend in The City I began noticing those spots again: the ice cream where I awkwardly had my first and last OkCupid date, the building where I had my first internship, the dessert place where the waitress knew me, and the theatre where I experienced my first Off-Broadway show. Again, I sensed that I may not visit these places ever again, that they will recede to the back of my mind and become relics of the past.

Same goes with Sarah Lawrence and its surrounding towns. Unlike The City, it would be much harder for me to return to these places as they were mostly ill-equipped with public transportation. Thus, when my parents visited for graduation, I took the chance to revisit and explore the neighbourhood, hoping to generate a reliable memory that would keep my desires to return at bay. On graduation day, I came two hours early and sat at the lobby of Performing Arts Center (PAC) and stared at the office doors that once seemed mysterious, yet soon became a part of my daily sight at Sarah Lawrence. I sighed, signalling myself to release what appeared to be permanent ideas about this school, my school. On the contrary I convinced myself to return one day to see the same stones and the same doors slightly changed to suit the college students that would graze the lawns of Sarah Lawrence then.

Back Home

The funny thing about memory, be it of people or spaces, is that they are yours and yours only. What you remember, what you cherish and what you hold true will never match others, including the people who were there at the exact same moment. As my psychology professor used to say, if a big ‘T’ truth exists it is unreachable, instead we are left with small ‘t’ truths to dabble with.

Nevertheless, when I replay what I remember of my dream I noticed that it consisted of elements that I craved from my college experience, including a shared connection with another human being beyond the academia. Additionally, it involved the emotions that I did not experience in real life, such as sentimentality and all the gooey, fluffy things that are often incorporated in it. I would prefer to think of all this confusion as a sign that a tearful goodbye was not needed as it was not the finale, instead it is the end of an act in a suspiciously long play.

*All the images are supplied by the author

No comments:

Post a Comment