I’m feeling quiet today, reflective, reticent.

This blogging challenge is to blame, I’d wager. I’m swimming through old waters, my toes are bound to stir up some silt.

Yesterday, after writing about a portion of my community college experience, I found myself on that campus, waiting to hear a friend of mine read poetry from her prize winning chapbook. She worked hard and deserves some praise.

Full disclosure: I knew I was going to be on campus when I wrote yesterday. Thinking about my own time at school was inevitable. I was good to write about some of it. I was not however, ready for the rush of emotions I encountered before, during, and after the reading.

The reception and ceremony took place in a building that did not exist when I was a student. It is a beautiful space, and as I walked through it, by classrooms where evening students were being taught, I couldn’t help but wonder where two decades had gone. I was overcome by something I did not expect- Awkwardness. I felt out of place in a place I never felt out of place. I tried to keep composed, but I was suddenly sweaty and hyper-aware of everyone around me.

The reading was beautiful (even if I thought the poetry judge took a bit too much time reading from her own chapbook), and it reminded me of so many other readings, author events, academic lectures, I had attended. My friend was appropriately nervous and grateful. Her tiny smile made me laugh, and while I remained uncomfortable, I didn’t let that diminish my enjoyment of her success.


After the reading ended, I said my congratulations, grabbed a hug and a cookie and went for a walk.

The campus has changed. Different faces wander the sidewalks and sit in the classes. The trees are taller in some locations, noticeably absent in others. Entire sections of the campus are redesigned, and the old Administration building has been razed, replaced by a vast green space.

I did not recognize the Quad at all. The comfortable and inviting space I once knew is gone. In its place, something sterile has grown out of the concrete. I know I sound like the bitter and confused middle age man I am, but it was sad for me to see.


R is for recursive 

I turned to walk back to my car, ready to leave this altered place behind when I saw them. They weren’t the first I’d encountered on my walk, but they stood out. Students, four of them, coming out of a building where I had also once attended class. I did not see myself in them, or my friends in the others. Three women, one man walked towards the Student Center, backpacks over their shoulders, finished for the evening, or perhaps taking a break between courses. They are going places, walking paths I never will, but were starting the journey in a similar place. Seeing them made me feel better, less out of sorts and out of touch. I left smiling.

Things come and go, places change as well as people. Still, there is a continuity, a returning loop that continues outward and onward, and that pleases me more than I can say.

As I’m editing this, I learn that Prince is dead. Too many icons gone too young. This year needs to stop. 


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About fenster

There are some who call me, Tim?

10 responses to “Recursive”

  1. Beth Camp says :

    Your post reminds me how our perspective changes. I taught for 26 years at a community college and loved being part of that learning community, helping my students on as many levels as I could. I’ve been retired now nearly a decade and have reinvented my life. I haven’t gone back, but I hear bits and pieces of decisions made that transform what I once knew. Out of the old, something new emerges. Different generations, different values, and certainly different contexts (especially as technology keeps changing what is possible). But the students remain, the learning remains — those moments we shared in celebration and sometimes sorrow. We gave and received gifts that I yet hope enrich us all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

    • fenster says :

      Thank you for your comment. Those who teach at community college understand what it means to teach. I loved University, grad school, but always found the professors from my CC days to be the most passionate, most able to adapt.

      The students indeed remain, and that is the important part.

  2. Yolanda Renee says :

    I would love to go back to my Alma mater, but then again, maybe not. I’m no longer that student either. Still I keep telling myself I should go back and do a book signing.

    • fenster says :

      For a decade, I lived near the University I attended, saw the changes there, spent a lot of time on that campus. For some silly reason, I expected the CC campus to remain the same. Silly.

      And you should go back, it would be interesting, if nothing else.

  3. Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor says :

    I haven’t been back to where I went to college in a gazillion years. I imagine things would have changed immensely and that i would feel out of place and out of sorts. Not sure that I would want to experience that. Life has moved on and so have I.

    Cheers – Ellen |

    • fenster says :

      I totally agree. Having lived for a decade near the University I attended, I was a witness to the slow changes there. I should have expected the CC campus to be altered as well. Foolish me. It is easy to get caught up, remembering those times a bit too romantically. Onward and upward, right…

  4. cleemckenzie says :

    Just yesterday I was on my old campus, listening to a presentation and going back through all the days I’d spent in those classrooms and strolling those paths. Then this morning I land on your page and read your post. What an interesting “coincidence.”

    • fenster says :

      Indeed! It was an interesting experience for sure. I’ve spent much more time on the campus of the University I attended, so the changes seem less drastic. The changes to the CC were certainly as gradual, but seeing them all in one moment was a shock.

  5. Liesbet says :

    Each time I was back in Belgium previous years, I would walk by my college if I would find myself in that city. Now, I don’t feel that need again. Change is good, but noticing change can cause feelings that you didn’t realize were there. Change makes me feel old, but, just like you, it also makes me feel whole and happy with who I have become.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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