‘National Treasure 2’ is the perfect metaphor for returning to college

First-rate life lessons from a second-rate sequel

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At the end of my first year, I said goodbye to a close group of friends knowing I might never see them again. We all still liked each other, but we were heading towards different apartments, different majors and different lives. I could feel my friends reaching out with their goodbyes — saying things like “we’ll still see each other” and “nobody’s moving too far away” — trying to grasp tenuous connections of hope for the coming year. Even still, in those last hours before summer, our roads were diverging, and with only one afternoon left as first years, I felt the future bearing down on me. With uncertainty filling our lives, an often-quiet friend spoke up. In six brilliant words, he turned the looming tornado of the future into a distant breeze with words which still ring in my mind.

“Hey, want to watch National Treasure?”

The first national treasure movie is a lot. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, the plot goes as follows — a secret treasure map is on the back of the Declaration of Independence and only Nick Cage can successfully steal it. In short, the film is a total mess. It’s a royal mess-up of insane proportions, and I love it. Sure, it’s full of nonsensical plot points and abysmal acting, but it’s also full of heartwarming sappiness and unforgettable quotes. Nicholas Cage actually says “I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence” at one point. Unironically. Like the first year of college, it’s messy and magical and special all at the same time. It’s the kind of film which makes everything feel okay — even if it’s just for a little while.

The problem is, there’s a second one.

All the absurdity returns for the sequel. It’s an even more messy and mistake-filled film. What’s worse, however, is the movie is haunted by a feeling of déjà vu. The plot is more or less the same — but going through the usual motions is not nearly as fun the second time around.

Returning to college can be tough in a similar way. My first year, I met a lot of great people and took a lot of great classes. Sure, not everything was perfect, but for every horrible mistake, there was a great memory. When you return to college, however, things feel different. Grounds aren’t nearly as new and exciting as they had been. Friend groups are changing, people are in different places, and worst of all, the looming tornado of the future is closer than ever.

I didn’t see that group of friends for my first week back at the University. Our group chat occasionally buzzed with tentative plans to get together, but we never ended up following through on them. Time went on, however, and I found out one of my friends was in the same lecture class as I was. Then another one ended up in my discussion. In between classes, I started to meet a third friend at The Pav. Although the group never reformed in the same way, I still saw the friends I was so afraid of losing pretty regularly.

If there is one lesson to take away from this, it’s that National Treasure 2 can be rough. Things aren’t as fresh or as magical as they were the first go around. Some things are too chaotic, and others are too familiar. You can’t go back. Nicholas Cage is back, however. The weird comic relief character is back, too. So even if things aren’t exactly the same, it feels like you’re among old friends. And that makes it worth it.

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