Taking the tram past Melbourne Uni was like seeing an ex-boyfriend in the street. You were together for a long time and you were considering getting engaged, but then you met someone way more awesome. Even though you’re happy with your new love, it gives you a twinge to see that old boyfriend walking down the street, carrying his baby in a sling, a child another woman bore him, and wearing none of the same clothes he used to wear.
It would have been fine if I had just said hi to him on the street and got on with it. But the next day I went back and spent the whole day at Melbourne Uni, which I think is the equivalent of catching up for coffee, or maybe even dinner.
I was at Melbourne Uni for six years. That’s five years and eight months longer than any romantic relationship I’ve ever had. I had two semesters off, but this is the only year since 2008 that I haven’t been enrolled at Melbourne Uni.
I spent the day at Melbourne Uni, hoping to get a bit of thesis work done and catch up with old friends. But the few friends I still have there were away or busy. I logged onto a computer at the library, and my login details still worked, which was a weird feeling. Going back to my boyfriend analogy, I think it was like going for a kiss and realising the chemistry was still there.
Moving to Canberra was kind of challenging because it involved lots of change for me. But it was okay, because it was my choice, and everything was different all at once. Hanging around Melbourne Uni and Brunswick was exhausting for my Aspie brain, because I kept expecting familiarity and encountering change. Arts West, where I had most of my lectures in my final semester of undergrad in 2011. That was my fourth year, and I finally came into my stride and felt like I had a good routine and crew.
Arts West started getting renovated in 2012 and is now transformed beyond recognition. Seeing the building so different just reminds me that it’s not 2011 and my crew has dispersed. Objectively, the renovation is too Deakin for my style, all pods and block colours. There are spaces like that at ANU, but from my perspective it’s always been that way, so there’s nothing to be upset about.
The Architecture building has changed too, but I never saw it happen slowly, just saw the scaffolding. Now there is no trace of construction; the building stands resplendent and proud. It is more of a Cinderella transformation than the Arts West one. Ironically, the architecture building was the ugliest one on campus, so the change is objectively a good thing. But it doesn’t give me pleasure to see my old campus has moved on and is doing well without me. I just feel left behind, even though I was the one who did the leaving.
You might think I’m a little crazy to be so emotionally attached to a physical space that couldn’t give a damn about one of its hundreds of thousands of alumni. Maybe the analogy seems creepy to you. But Aspies often get highly attached to buildings and places, sometimes more so than people. You should have seen me when my parents sold my childhood home!
One good thing came out of my emotionally distressing visit to Melbourne. As I took the bus back up to Canberra, I felt like I was returning home rather than leaving it. I memorised the landmarks that show I’m getting closer, and I came back to my own house, new friends, my own bed, desk, routines. And finally I was calm.