It’s quite difficult to sum up one and a half years of my life into one post, one video, a playlist, or any form of media that I use to express myself. Half of me sees Burlington in a cold concrete, clear King-Krule’s-newest-album-blue way, in frigid temperatures and boring outfits and icicles hanging from every possible crevice, branch, and post. The other half remembers purple sunsets over multicolored mountains, thrift stores littered with drag, concerts every night, the cold-warm breeze on your face at the lake in late August. But what it really was is the mundane shit that I took for granted.
I really want a Sodexo bagel with strawberry cream cheese, or a chocolate croissant paired with Speeder and Earl’s hazelnut coffee, the corn tortillas from New World Tortilla, or the chicken and wild rice soup from the marketplace. I want to sit at my favorite study table overlooking the streams of students passing by merchants and club tables in the student center. I want to make myself a grilled cheese on Wednesday afternoons again, complete with the really fucking good local ingredients that we didn’t even have to pay for. I want to go to City Market and stare at the beauty products. I want to come home from work and talk to my roommate about everything that scares me. I want to ride the bus.
I am happy and sad that I didn’t know it was my last semester, or last week, even, at University of Vermont. Unlike studying abroad, I didn’t know when my time away would be up, which brings us to Amanda Thompson’s concept: accidental studying abroad. That’s what I did, I think. I mean, here I am going on and on about sunsets and dining hall food, it sounds like I went abroad for a few semesters or something and am being really overdramatic about it. I guess I didn’t really get a formal goodbye.
When I go back, it won’t even feel like my city anymore. No more walks to the bank, or ArtsRiot, or the waterfront. Walking into Monarch and the Milkweed or Outdoor Gear Exchange or the Lamp Shop will be what it is: just a visit. Not a part of my general routine. Not something I can shoot down the street to do on a Tuesday.
I guess I’ll find my Tuesday places here. Maybe it will be CVS. Maybe when it snows, the flakes will be so big and mesmerizing, and the sunset will be so purple that I can put on Sex Tourists by French Kicks and close my eyes and pretend I’m in Burlington. Maybe I can sit in the new museum, the one that I don’t know just yet, listening to Birds Don’t Sing by TV Girl and pretend that the edgy art students around me are just UVM students.
I wasn’t outdoorsy enough, I wasn’t weird enough, I wasn’t cool enough to fit in; all that stuff that rang through my mind constantly was bullshit. As much as I told myself all of that, it was still my city. I went to the farmer’s markets, whether it was with friends or by myself, and I went to the protests, and almost got a tattoo in the tattoo parlor, and I walked back from frat parties by myself at three AM, and hiked some mountains. I did the Burlington stuff. I did it all, and I didn’t even realize it.
I miss Waterman. I miss Lafayette. I miss Old Mill, especially the view of the lake from the fifth floor. I miss the ugly library, the gross Grundle, the gym that was way too far away from where I lived. I miss the one street that Champlain College had property on, it was just so beautiful. I miss slipping on ice going downhill and staining my jeans.
So yeah, I guess my thought now is “What was I thinking?”. But I know what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. I was feeling. I knew that I just needed to go. And it complicated stuff for sure, and I’m not even sure if I like UConn all that much yet. It isn’t UVM for sure, but I’m paying $30,000 less so that makes sense. I only have to do a little bit more of college here, and then it’s all over. And I can make it good.
If I was at UVM right now, I would be writing this alone eating mac and cheese. But I’m not alone right now and had a salad for lunch, so I guess that counts. Emotionally, I’m doing so much better here. I feel less depressed. Maybe a bit lonelier, but I think that will go away. Because I’m getting what I really wanted, which is a second chance at college.
Maybe a side effect of being me is always wanting to leave wherever I am. My mom says I just love to travel, but I just really like leaving. I didn’t cry leaving UVM. I really liked leaving, to be honest. I don’t know why, because now I look back and start crying. But in the end, leaving always brings some good into my life. It was like that with flying to D.C. for the first time. I want to feel like that more often.
Maybe I’ll never feel comfortable where I am, or secure in my friendships. Maybe that’s another side effect. I think I wouldn’t have figured it out if I hadn’t left.
Thank you to the city of Burlington and the institution of the University of Vermont for housing me for 1.5 years. I couldn’t have done it without my favorite political science professor, my shitty freshman year roommates, the girls I met in my public speaking class, the guys I liked for no reason because I was bored, my friends I semi-hated, or Brianna.