I recently spent the weekend in Chicago visiting a dear college friend. We headed back to Beloit College and spent a beautiful spring day walking around the gorgeous campus.
I haven't been back since I graduated 31 years ago. Not out of protest - more out of indifference.
For the first two years of college, I tried transferring out. The town felt small and the possibilities limited. When that didn't work, I spent the last two years trying to grow where I was planted.
I've held on to the stories in my head about what didn't work for me there.
But as we peeked into buildings and classrooms, lots of new memories came back.
- My favorite professor and the opportunities he created for me and those who shared his passion for social justice: a police ride-along program; an abundance of stimulating, thought provoking pre-law classes; leadership positions.
- The law firm job I’d had every summer in Chicago and the internship with the D.C. Public Defender's Office during my senior year - living and learning in new cities opening my eyes to different cultural experiences.
- Dancing at the famed music festival Folk ‘N Blues; deep conversations with friends as we sat in dorm rooms/cafeterias/classrooms/bars/late night diners; and what a spring day felt like after a long Wisconsin winter.
Walking the campus, we spoke to everyone we saw.
- We met a student from India who was relieved by the friendliness of his classmates and excited by the opportunity to participate in a multi-cultural campus.
- We talked with a cafeteria worker who had been part of the staff for 15 years and still smiled at every kid who walked in.
- And we spent time with energetic alums who had returned to campus and the town of Beloit, investing time and resources in an effort to empower younger students to make a difference - change for good.
Being on campus allowed positive, more expansive memories to come forward overshadowing the negative memories I'd been holding onto.
Some of the old stories I’d been holding onto were true - unhealthy relationships, low gray skies for months on end.
But there were lots of other stories I hadn't been paying attention to that were just as true.
Stories of growth and discovery, culture and experience, friendship and mentoring.
Stories that shaped who I am today.