David Trinko: On campus after all these years

It seems so strange being a visitor to a place you once called home.

You spend so much time thinking about it as you travel there, hoping it can live up to the expectations you’ve built with nostalgia. You wonder if it’s changed. You wonder if you’ve changed.

Of course it’s changed there. Everything’s different these days. Of course you’ve changed. Your life is so different than it was then. How does the new me mesh with the new there?

Then you arrive, and it just feels comfortable again.

I headed out early Saturday morning to visit my alma mater, Ohio University, for a reunion of the people who’ve worked at the college newspaper, The Post, over the years. I’ve been back there a handful of times over the years, but I’m hardly the alum who’s back on campus several times a year. I haven’t been on the campus itself in about 10 years, although we’ve stopped in the city on the way home from vacations occasionally.

I’m writing this while sitting on a bench on College Green on a surprisingly sunny and warm Saturday morning, before most of our planned events begin. I haven’t seen any of the old friends who’ve said they’re coming yet, so I won’t bore you with how well or poorly our attempts at small talk go.

I can bore you with the strong sense of introspection that overwhelms you when you return someplace after a long absence.

I think back to nearly 30 years ago, when I first set foot on this campus and wondered if it was the right place for me. I didn’t know if it would build the foundations I’d need for a successful career and rewarding life.

With the wisdom of years, I can say that’s an awfully tall order for a city and a set of buildings. Still, the answer is yes.

I wonder how that fiercely independent young man, who never thought he needed anyone’s help and didn’t mind being alone for hours on end, would react to the man I am now, where I gleefully spent the night prior playing card games with my children — alcohol-free, at that.

I don’t think he could recognize me. Stepping back onto the campus and taking a selfie photograph at the class gateway, I’m not sure I recognized me. Nostalgia transported me not just back to a familiar place but made me think, for just a second, that I looked like I did when I graduated from here all those years ago, when different buildings with different names lined some of these streets.

Nostalgia is such a powerful force. It allows you to relive the best days of your life. They feel like the best days of your life because nostalgia lets you fast-forward through all the tedium and monotony that make life occasionally dull.

I’m sure every day someone walks on their old college campus and feels these same fleeting questions about whether you’ve taken the right roads to get where you are.

There are no wrong streets on the path of life, though. They all got us where we are now.

I’m sure I’ll enjoy my time in the place that shaped me for a couple years. I also know I’ll miss the life I’ve built back home, where those stories that start with “remember when” only happened a few weeks ago.

That’s where I won’t have to be a visitor to a place I called home. It’s the real thing.


See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

Subscribe to the Trinko Thinks So podcast at LimaOhio.com/podcasts.

David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.