“You can never go back to a time when you were happy.” -Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted

This quote from one of my favorite young adult novels (nix the terrible movie adaptation, just read the book!) has always stuck with me.  A poetic thought, but how true is it, really?

For me, the “good old days” are unquestionably my college years.  I loved college, everything about it.  It was my first time getting out from the shelter of my small-town, homogenous upbringing, and I got to meet people from all over the country and all over the world.  I took fascinating classes taught by amazing professors.  I heard about this program called “Teach for America,” and someone casually mentioned that I should think about doing it.  I lived down the hall from the woman who became my wife.

In so many ways, college was the place that set me firmly on the path that led me to where I am today.

And it’s so pretty:


I know.  You can all be jealous.

My wife and frequently joke around, usually in moments of work-related stress, by singing each other the title line from the Avenue Q song “I Wish I Could Go Back to College.”  And in some ways, it’s true.  I miss those carefree days, when I got to spend my time learning, writing and socializing (pretty much in that order).

But here’s the thing.  This spring, we did go back.

It was our 10-year reunion, and now living back on the east coast, we were excited to be able to make it.  It was a great weekend.  We got to see lots of old friends, enjoy some college-student-provided, low-cost baby-sitting, and see the old stomping grounds.  We reconnected with a couple of our old professors.  It was a great time.

But also, it made me glad that I’m where I am now.

Glad that I went off and did something meaningful right out of college.

Glad that I made bold choices, like buying a house and getting married in my 20’s (not popular with my generation).

Glad that I have a job that lets me make a difference, and a life that leaves me fulfilled.

So maybe it is true, that you can’t go back to a time when you were happy.  It happened, it’s over.  But that doesn’t mean one happy time won’t open door to newer, even happier ones.

I loved college.  I miss it sometimes.  But you know what?

I love the life I have today, because of it, even more.