Growing up is weird. It’s weird being 18, fucking clueless and forced to pick a school where you’ll spend arguably the best four years of your life. It’s weird watching your parents help you carry everything you own to your dorm room and then drive away without taking you with them. It’s weird enduring four years of academic kicks to the groin and then rushing to find a job before all the good ones are taken.
But the weirdest change of all is when you’re forced to cut ties with the one saving grace that has helped you survive the better part of your collegiate career. The shoulder you cried on when you failed a test or kissed a boy you shouldn’t have. The one who made you smile when times were tough and helped you celebrate the little things: Your favorite college bar.
Do you remember the moment when you realized you were no longer meant for each other? The split second when you felt a disconnect and realized things wouldn’t work out? Let me refresh your memory.
It was late… probably. You don’t really remember. You were too focused on your impending entrance to notice the sky. Because there’s nothing quite like the feeling of entering your favorite bar on a Friday night, or any night of the week for that matter, equipped with a low-quality Chardonnay buzz from the shitshow your friend had the balls to call a pregame. The energy of the room was chaotic and musty and exciting as you passed the all-too familiar bouncer without bothering to flash your ID, not because you were cute enough to get away with a fake, but because you were genuinely old as fuck and they stopped caring after your 21st birthday party.
Your entrance was just a glimpse of magic in an otherwise dreary world, and you quickly snapped back into a reality that entailed standing in an obscenely long line for an overpriced and bottom shelf drink. There was probably a drunk girl close to you, screaming to her friend about “Michael, that fucking douche.” The music was so loud that you realized you would get a headache if you didn’t get a drink soon. That’s when you thought, “Wait a minute, why don’t we just go to a less crowded bar?”
And just like that, without even realizing it, you began the long and painful process of dumping your favorite college bar. You grew out of the crowds, ridiculous cover charge, and terrible music. You realized you were sick of watching the same drunken shitheads do the same drunken shit. You began a new era of life, one with more mature establishments that don’t leave stamps on your hand that for some reason refuse to vacate your skin for three days.
You might still go back every now and again, just to check out the ole’ stomping grounds and the lovely townies who run the place. You might sit at the bar and think, “Hmm, this is nice, maybe I should come around when it’s not 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon.” But you won’t. Because 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon is when the place is basically empty, and you’re probably not emotionally stable enough to see the 19-year-old twats who think they fucking run the place these days.
But you don’t need to. You don’t need to know what goes down on Saturday nights, because the memories are enough. Blurry, for sure. But still enough to help you move on.
That’s what you do after a breakup. You live with your memories and you cherish them. You count yourself lucky to have had something that meant so much, even if that something was a hole in the wall with zero working toilets and a floor that was permanently sticky. You try to take what you can and turn it into a learning experience. Like that time you learned that tequila shots are no bueno past midnight.
Like any breakup, the aftermath was messy. Who can blame you for having a slutty streak? You had every right to hit it and quit it with every well-lit and spacious bar in town. Who knew that there were bars where you can actually sit down if you want to? Who knew some had coat racks, and central air, and adequate plumbing? They’re all so different, and sometimes it’s hard to resist the temptation to try them all. Don’t let anyone slut shame you for testing every establishment. Life’s a roller coaster, and you’re tall enough to ride.
And now, you’ve managed to find peace. You no longer scowl when your friends express their plans to visit your old pal, because you know that though that was once a notion that thoroughly aroused you, you now prefer to hang out in bars that allow actual conversations to take place. You’re past it. You now manage to smile when thinking back on your old friend, and you’ve matured to the point where you pray that it won’t eventually burn to the ground like it should have years ago..