Living // Why It Felt Weird to Revisit My University City

A few weeks ago I found myself experiencing a very strange sense of déjà vu. Bumping my suitcase awkwardly around the underground, run-walking to catch a train I'm always 2 minutes late for, trying to cover my bare legs with a silk scarf because the HS1 to Canterbury is always so cold. I was going back to my university town and it felt weird.

Revisiting somewhere you haven't been to in a while is always a little odd. You recognise some things and other parts have changed, but this time around I felt a little different. Almost voyeuristic. I felt like I was walking in on a huge chunk of my life that at once felt so close and so long ago.

I knew I wanted to go to university in Canterbury when my Dad drove me through the city on an open day aged 17 and my mind was blown when I saw a delicate est. 1301 sign painted above a pub door. Much like today, if it was old I wanted to be in it or around it.

Quite suddenly, the off-key beeping noise signalling the closing train doors took me back to days when I lived just across from the station, nursing a headache in bed whilst cursing the trains and all their insensitive noises. Dragging my suitcase across cobblestones and the familiar echo it sounded off the stone walls took me back to weekends where I took myself away back to Norwich as soon as lectures finished on a Friday. This beautiful, ancient city felt oppressive at times and I'd relax again as soon as I got away from it and saw open fields with too many cows.

I did, and still do take pride in knowing it's allies and the labyrinth that is the cathedral. I am one of thousands upon thousands of people to pass through the domineering Westgate entrance to the city, whether that be for study, pilgrimage or tourism. I've spent happy hours in the Cathedral library, carefully leafing through 400 year old texts and making hurried pencil notes on paper. I've had lots of cake in lots of cafes and loved seeing the streets become increasingly full of happy punters. I've dashed around town with a very specific list of fancy dress items, and even though it's a teeny tiny city, I always managed to find everything I needed.

The famed 'Breakfast Awards' has long gone since being written in a note on my old iPhone, but those cafes where me and Joe ate ALL the fried things in the early days of our relationship are still there. We laughed at places where we'd bought fast food at 3am after nights out. We walked past my old door and I remembered all the times I'd sat outside on the cold step, key-less and waiting for a housemate to let me in. We knew all the shortcuts and exactly where to get the best coffee in the morning.

So what's changed? This time I was quite simply there for pleasure and seeing friends and it felt abnormal. I didn't feel like a student. I didn't feel like a had anywhere I should be. I didn't feel guilty for enjoying myself. I didn't have a bag weighed down by books. I didn't check my watch once. In short? I'd forgotten how much space study and academia took up in my brain and I'd subconsciously plastered this into the walls around me.

I saw things and went places I hadn't thought to go to before. In all the years I'd lived here I never visited the castle ruins that were just behind my house. Not once! They're incredible and untouched and as I ran my hands along the flint the life of the city came back to me.

Cooling my feet in the beautifully clear river I realised how much I'd grown since last being here. This city holds part of my story and now I'm re-reading it and seeing things I never noticed before.

Canterbury, you'll always keep a little piece of me. An anxious, bookish, rushing, laughing, silly, stumbling, content and happy little piece of me.

 How did you feel when revisiting somewhere you used to know so well?

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