WENDY VICTORA: Looking back nostalgically on college years

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WENDY VICTORA @WendyVnwfdn

At our house, we’re wading through college applications, weighing their merits and sorting through residency requirements trying to make sense of it all.

It was all simpler when I was in high school. Not better, but definitely easier.

I took the ACT once and applied to three schools, all of which I got into. Then I made my decision based on semi-whimsical information and, the next fall, off I went. It was a good decision, maybe even a great one.

My four years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were among the best in my life. It was a beautiful lakefront campus at a crazy time for the country and for student government in Madison.

The Vietnam War was winding down. The Pail and Shovel party had just been elected based on campaign promises that included putting the Statute of Liberty on Lake Mendota and bringing pink flamingos to Bascom Hill. There were rallies on the lawn of the capitol and the drinking age was 18.

Coming from a senior class of 175 in a high school built in an Illinois cornfield, I was fascinated. Four years later, I hated to leave.

And now that’s one of the schools that’s on my daughter’s list. It was not just my alma mater, but my father’s. He graduated in 1949, the same year as the school celebrated its 100th anniversary.

While my daughter was doing her application, we sat down with his yearbook. It was clear that even in its earlier years, Madison was a campus with an attitude.

It all made me faintly nostalgic for a time when the big decisions I faced were still smaller, and less fun, than many I have made since.

While I make it a practice to live in the present and avoid camping out in the past, I have had a few moments this week of wishing I could do it again. Wishing I was 18 and moving into a dormitory and walking into a huge lecture hall for the first time. Wishing I was sitting at a table outside the student union, watching boats sail by and sipping at the foam on the top of an icy beer stein.

It’s dangerous to look back for too long. You miss the life that you have worked hard to have. You forget to be grateful.

I have a lot to be grateful for and my college education is near the top of my list. 

Daily News Managing Editor Wendy Victora can be reached at 315-4478 or wvictora@nwfdailynews.com

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