Death of the old undergrad me

By Carlye Wisel

I supposedly became a woman at my bat mitzvah, but honestly, I was more concerned about which boy to slow dance with first than how old I had suddenly become. Freshman year was rumored to be some sort of adult milestone, but weeknights were spent passing out tipsy in my tiny Illini Tower bedroom under a wallpaper of high school photographs instead of philosophizing or balancing my checkbook.

The old me used to spend Thursday evenings gallivanting in the dark, dank atmosphere of Station and Gully’s (the dirtier but more lovable FuBar predecessor), giggling with my new sorority friends when the shots of whatever we could find in the dorm that night finally started to kick in. Dancing provocatively in corners and schmoozing our way around the bar – “making the rounds” was the alternate, tackier term used for the foot pattern – we’d meet friends of friends, trying to find someone within the tiny group of guys we knew to entertain us for the night, or hopefully, for the semester.

Lately, I’ve spent Thursdays traveling, most recently by hopping aboard the Amtrak, waiting patiently until the dependably late train pulls into Chicago ever-so-slowly beside its starry skyline. I’ve been giving up weekends on campus – commonly referred to as “the best time of your life” by anyone with a 40-hour work week – to mill around just miles from my permanent address, but for a good reason: because someone in Chicago loves me.

I almost resent my pathetic self for following the term “I love” with a boy’s name instead of phrases like “Burnett’s vodka,” “Pygmalion Music Festival,” “Marc Jacobs accessories” or “how cute that Mike Huckabee is,” but it’s true. I’ve become a kissy-faced sap who hugs on street corners, cuddles (ick) and actually whispered, before near-vomiting in my mouth and discussing said lameness, “I just want to make you as happy as you make me” earlier this weekend.

Ew. Ew. Ew. I mean, for Christ’s sake, we walked through Chicago’s rainy monsoon at one point this weekend in *matching yellow ponchos.* But, maybe it’s fine to replace the louder, drunker, easier, debatably more fun version of myself with the mature, responsible, credit card-owning me, who rolls her eyes at the trashy music escaping through bar doors in the city, pumping out into the night past men in striped button-down shirts and women in low-cut anything taking a nicotine break from the liquored-down drag of trying to find someone just to entertain them for the night, or hopefully, for longer.

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I’ve settled down, there’s no way around it. Maybe there’s a reason the old adage, starting with “something old, something new” has begun to find significance within myself.

“Don’t you feel like everyone is getting engaged?” my friend Hallie asked last week, an inquiry followed by a series of “That’s so weird!” synonymous statements on both of our behalves, even though our later wife-like discussion of how we worry about Kyle’s rugby playing and Donald’s recent clumsiness with knives proved its normalcy.

I don’t feel like trying on ivory gowns any time soon, but recently, my jokes to him about living together have become sentences; the musing of throwing everything in a truck and sharing a one-bedroom in Brooklyn solidified into a feasible discussion of cost ($776 for a one-way, 14′ UHaul truck), time (it’s difficult, but possible, to make the drive in a day) and belongings (all boxable, save the Queen-size bed).

As I sat on the early Sunday morning train back to Champaign, eating one of the peanut butter cake truffles I spent hours baking for his birthday, it hit me that I’ve strayed from the old me. Growing up, moving in and getting engaged, in my eyes, have always been acts constrained to those twenty-somethings who live in cities, take trains, wear high-waisted skirts from Banana Republic, visit museums for fun instead of for school, sip martinis after work before they go to the theater, catch up with a friend over dinner, call purchases “investments,” pay rent and do brunch. And, as distant as that adult existence seems, I do, or have recently done, all these things.

In a few months, it’ll be time to settle down with a real apartment, real job and real life, but it already feels like I have most of that. I’m no longer the undergraduate version of myself, slumping through long days of class and scribbling answers to homework before heading out with friends. I’m adult-ish, ready to leave these loud, smelly streets behind for a city full of lights, opportunity, adventure, excitement and louder, smellier streets. And frankly, I cannot wait.

Carlye is a senior in news-editorial journalism, and adores the golden pretzel necklace you gave her.