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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

When I finally packed my things to bring to college, four bags sat in one corner of my bedroom. I found it remarkable how I’d managed to condense my whole life down to this: suitcases swelling with clothes and backpacks awkwardly zipped around portable storage containers.

My bedroom didn’t look as bare as I’d anticipated. There were the obvious absences: gaps in my closet where my shirts had once been, pens cleared out of a coffee mug, and an empty vanity table where I’d stored skincare products and makeup, arranged in a cluster of minimalist packaging.

But so many of the fixtures of my childhood remained intact. Untouched.

The pile of stuffed animals that had once consumed my imagination, posters I outgrew but couldn’t bring myself to throw away, all my favorite books arranged by genre, and the colorful, if somewhat useless, eraser animals I’d begged my parents for at the elementary school book fair: small, insignificant artifacts of my childhood. 

For a few days, my bedroom had been a complete mess – boxes strewn out everywhere, the contents of my desk and shelves divided into intricate piles. I’d gone through all of my things in preparation for college. There were many things I threw out — old study guides, magazine clippings I’d once thought imperative to keep. But there were many more things that I felt compelled to keep.

The complicated feelings I’ve had regarding my childhood certainly aren’t exclusive to me. Our society seems to be fascinated with the idea of growing up. We are captivated by media that reckons with “coming-of-age” — returning to the teased perms and synth soundtracks of John Hughes films, and connected deeply with the raw depictions of adolescence featured in other contemporary films such as Lady Bird and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Other forms of media are also consumed by the coming-of-age genre; some of the most memorable books of all time explore themes of navigating adolescence.

Despite the film being over a decade old, The Perks of Being a Wallflower remains a staple of the “coming of age” story.

The distinct perimeters of childhood and adulthood are clearly established moments of change. And yet for so many people, events we commonly associate with growing up — high school graduations, moving away from home — still manage to catch us off guard. We are overwhelmed by these changes, and seek understanding in the art around us. Yet even after we’ve grown up, do we ever lose that longing for a deeper understanding?

John Hughes was well into his thirties when he began producing some of the iconic teen filmography that defined the 20th century. Donna Tartt published her coming-of-age epic The Goldfinch when she was fifty. Paul Feig created the cult-classic television series Freaks and Geeks decades after he’d finished high school. We leave childhood and adolescence, but return to it time and time again. Why?

I think we are captivated by the intersection of nostalgia and simplicity. The familiarity of youth — brightly-colored beach towels and recess games under a scintillating sun — is something which carries a veneer of idealism. Memories are pruned and curated; we forget the sting of sunburns and playground wounds. It all gets condensed into something simpler. As time passes, the problems that once were all-consuming seem to pale in comparison to our current burdens. 

It’s easy to reminisce on a moment that is wholly inaccessible. I will never be in the fourth grade again, collecting origami cranes made of notebook paper. I will never be seventeen again, convinced I’d find meaning in the intervals between songs played in the darkness of run-down concert venues. This is what makes nostalgia so lucrative — memories are only ever memories, and it can be profoundly excruciating to remind yourself of this.

My bedroom has changed over the years, but it still is a testament to my childhood: from the things I loved and cherished when I was a girl, to the memories that made me. If I look close enough, I can see the faded blotch of pink paint in the corner of my room. I was fourteen and decided colorful walls were too juvenile. I painted over it, covered it up. But not really. I don’t think you can ever really erase anything entirely. 

One day, I will throw out my old posters and discard my childhood books at the nearest Goodwill. I will pack up my things in plastic bags, and I will leave them behind. One day. Not quite yet.

Lily Defnet

CU Boulder '27

Lily Defnet is a contributing writer at the Her Campus of CU Boulder chapter. She writes about modern culture, psychology, and current events. As a freshman at the University of Colorado Boulder, Lily is currently pursuing an English major. She is a two-time participant of the highly competitive Iowa Young Writers Studio, and has interned with Lighthouse Writers Workshop throughout high school. While writing consumes most of her free time, Lily also enjoys reading, doing yoga, and watching reruns of Vanderpump Rules.