“I been away a long time.”
The last words of the iconic narrator of Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest have been on my mind the past week. This May, it will be seven years since I graduated from The University of Akron. I am trying to remember what it was like to have the mind of a teen, or a twenty-something-year-old, but I recall seven years feeling like a long time. It is, and it has been. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss the campus, the teachers and professors who shaped my mind, and the friends that I made walking the grounds of a campus that I called home for five years. As homecoming week approaches this year, I find myself in a kaleidoscope of memories. It almost feels abstract in a way, like the memories never happened, but they did. I can feel it.
The older I get, the harder it is to clearly define memories. They come at you unexpectedly at times, flashing quickly like fireflies on warm summer nights. You reach out a hand to try to grasp them, and they float casually by, just out of your reach. Perhaps it’s not the firefly I chase, but the memory of it as a child. Perhaps this is why the more I think about the memories, the more I realize that it’s not the moment I’m chasing, but the feeling.
I remember driving onto campus as a freshman, first day of college. I had a class in Olin Hall. I parked in what is now lot 34, and I sprinted to my class. Nothing like being “that kid” on your first day. I’m pretty sure I got a ticket that day…how is the parking situation nowadays anyhow? My first class at Akron was English Composition I with Professor Peggy Richards. I met my two best friends, that day, in that class. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were meeting their future husband and wife. Funny how life works, right? I remember late nights researching in Bierce Library. I remember the lights for the holidays illuminating campus, the first snow of the holiday season. I remember my first article being published in The Buchtelite; I grabbed a stack of them and took them home to my family and friends (sorry about that). I remember Steve McNees’ shot in the 2010 MAC Tournament (look it up). I remember watching Mike Nanchoff score under the lights and snowflakes the year we won the soccer championship. I remember the blustery fall days, the grey February morning walks to the Polsky Building, and the temperate spring days as the Daffodils bloomed on the trail between Bierce and the College of Arts and Sciences. The sad thing is that I don’t remember any of these memories very clearly. They are all dreamy recollections that are detailed at the core, but very fuzzy around the edges. They drift in and out of my mind any time I think about home. Any time I think about UA.
The more time goes by, the more I realize that what makes home, any home, such a special place is the feeling that you get when you park in front of the residence; the feeling you get when you see the light on in the window, and when you open the front door, you know you are in the right place. It’s a combination of memory and people, of love and nostalgia. I can never quite remember all the details in my memories of The University of Akron, but I know the feeling that they all bring; it’s a warm, happy feeling of belonging that only home can offer.
I hope that this year’s homecoming will be filled with memories for all of you, and I hope that you cherish the feeling of each moment and memory on campus. This way if you wake up one day, seven, ten, twenty years from now dreaming of the good times at UA, the fuzzy memories will be just enough to bring back the good times, recall the old stories and laughter, and give you that feeling that you know all too well: the feeling of home, no matter how far you are from it, or how long you’ve been away.