This week, I attended an event for work, held at my undergraduate college. I arrived a few minutes early and took a quick walk.
The walkway from the college center heads directly toward the chapel. There are a lot of trees on campus, but none surrounding the chapel. This gives it the impression of being even taller than it actually is. Turn right and you head toward the dormitories and the dining hall. Bear left for the academic buildings.
The campus has undergone extensive renovations since I graduated; little looks the way it did when I attended. The chapel, and specifically this turn in the path, look the same. That place, powerfully reminiscent, always reminds me of the first time I visited. That happened over half my life ago. There are halves, now, cleaving into larger and larger segments as time passes.
I am 17. It is April of my senior year. I am angry and arrogant. It is late in the morning on a bright day. My mother is with me; we drove up in the minivan.
There are 3 other prospective students, all girls, and their parents. The girls are thin with shallow smiles. They smell like money and pretension. I hate them all.
We start off from the college center, where the admissions office is, and walk around campus. The student guide is affable, eager. I am probably walking about 15 feet in front of my mother, as if that signifies independence. Alternatively, I am at her side. My skin crawls; I feel incredibly out of place.
Something wide and humbling lodges in me that morning, though, in spite of my unease. It is imagining myself here, among books I’ve never read, words I do not know. It takes several years to accept this possibility. I transfer in mid-way sophomore year.
Perhaps it was a song: the low roll of learning.